Free trade fails forests

Greenpeace calls for halt to forest trade liberalization in run up to WTO Talks

Press release - 2005-12-09
Four days before trade ministers meet at the 6th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Hong Kong, Greenpeace released a new report highlighting the threat that the WTO poses to the world’s last remaining ancient forests. The study Trading Away our Last Ancient Forests concludes that liberalisation in the forestry sector must be halted immediately in order to avoid destroying the last remaining ancient forests and the indigenous communities dependent on them.

The report Trading Away our Last Ancient Forests highlights that liberalisation is likely to magnify destruction of rainforests and increase illegal and unsustainable logging, particularly in the poorest countries. The study confirms the findings of a Sustainable Impact Assessment commissioned by the European Union on the likely negative impacts of WTO trade liberalisation on forests. The EU study was published earlier this week (1).

"A push for unbridled liberalisation of the global timber trade at the WTO would result in further irreversible ecological damage, as well as social conflict and an increase in poverty," said Daniel Mittler, Trade Policy Advisor at Greenpeace International. "Plans for forest liberalisation at the WTO must be abandoned in light of the proven negative environmental and social impacts."

The Greenpeace report illustrates how the WTO has been systematically used to stall political action aimed at preventing the destruction of forests. It therefore calls for governments to accept the primacy of international legislation safeguarding people and the environment over trade rules, so that the WTO can no longer be used to undermine progressive social and environmental legislation.

The WTO ministerial in Hong Kong will focus on agriculture, services and non-agricultural market access (NAMA). If the negotiations are to move forward at all, trade-offs between these different negotiation areas are inevitable. Forests, covered under the NAMA negotiations, are at risk of being traded off for cheap gains in other areas.

"We must not allow the last ancient forests of the world to be traded away in Hong Kong," added Daniel Mittler, "Governments must halt the NAMA negotiations and take urgent steps to improve forest protection measures globally."

Download the Report:

Trading Away our Last Ancient Forests


(1) The Sustainabilty Impact Assessment commissioned by the European Union is available at: