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WTO Forestry Proposal Good News - Industry

28 January 2005

WTO Forestry Proposal Good News - Industry

New Zealand’s decision to collaborate with the United States on a joint proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on reducing non tariff barriers facing the international trade of forest and wood products is an important step forward, says Forest Industries Council Chief Executive Stephen Jacobi.

“We have been working very hard with the US industry representatives on this, and with the other big players. Non tariff barriers are an issue for the Goliaths as well as the Davids,” he said.

Common non tariff barriers facing wood product exporters were local standards, technical regulations and the procedures used to test whether standards and regulations have been met.

“As tariffs come down there is more opportunity for export to international markets, but the rules and regulations that apply in each country mean doing business is still very complex. “A good example is China. When China joined the WTO, New Zealand exporters gained market access, but then we faced another battle to get New Zealand Radiata pine accepted in the Chinese Building Code,” Mr Jacobi said.

“What we want to do is make sure we don’t have to keep going through these sorts of hoops every time a new market opens up.”

Mr Jacobi expected the WTO to react positively to the proposal, although there was work to be done in encouraging support from other WTO delegations.

“As we found when we visited Geneva with an international industry delegation last May, the WTO is looking for practical ways to negotiate on non tariff barriers. This proposal is innovative and basically puts our sector ahead of others in terms of the thinking required to get a positive result from this key aspect of the WTO negotiation”.

The industry’s contribution to the proposal was based on a paper outlining the generic non tariff barriers typically faced by exporters. In New Zealand’s case the paper drew heavily on experiences in China and Japan.

“The Government has been very supportive in taking our input on board and developing a process for addressing our concerns through the trade negotiation process. We have worked hand in glove with New Zealand’s trade negotiators and the Wood Processing Strategy’s Trade Access Group,” Mr Jacobi said.

“If we are able to get a better international trade environment it means lower business costs for exporting and more use of our products in higher value applications.”

About Forestry

NZFIC represents and promotes the interests of all sectors involved in the New Zealand forest industry. Membership comprises forestry companies and industry associations who collectively own and manage a sustainable, planted production forest resource of 1.8 million hectares. New Zealand forestry directly employs 25,000 people, accounts for four percent of GDP, has annual sales of more than $5 billion and is the country’s third largest export earner at $3.5 billion annually. Through its Wood Processing Strategy and Vision 2025, the industry aims to become New Zealand’s largest export sector, directly employ 60,000 people, contribute 14 percent of GDP and record an annual turnover of $20 billion. Further information about the forest industry can be found at www.nzfic.org.nz.

ENDS

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