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Challenge to National: tropical forests or imports

Challenge to National: tropical forests or cheap imports?

Tomorrow’s trade talks with China provide a perfect opportunity for the National Party to demonstrate their environmental concern by joining the Green Party in calling for the inclusion of a clause in the deal prohibiting trade in unsustainably logged tropical timber and furniture, as the first step in a multilateral solution.

“Currently New Zealand imports millions of dollars worth of timber and timber furniture from China, much of it made from illegally and unsustainably harvested tropical timbers. New Zealand could use the free trade talks tomorrow to negotiate a clause in the deal stopping this trade,” says Russel Norman, Green Party Co-Leader.

“As Guy Salmon pointed out in the Spring edition of Ecologic, it is entirely compatible with our WTO commitments to introduce measures for the conservation of exhaustible natural resources so long as we don’t discriminate against any particular country and apply it to New Zealand producers as well. So we just tell China we’re applying it across the board,” says Dr. Norman, also the Greens’ Trade Spokesperson.

“The logging of tropical forests for timber and furniture is causing massive loss of biodiversity in the rapidly disappearing tropical forests. This loss of carbon storage is also contributing to climate change. There are alternatives such as the Forest Stewardship Council certification scheme.

“In addition, the importation of cheap furniture is undercutting the New Zealand furniture making industry. Our furniture makers generally use more sustainably harvested timber, whereas the imported product uses cheap unsustainably harvested tropical timber that externalises the true environmental cost.

“It is a disgrace that Labour have done nothing to stop this trade after seven years in office, other than issue a discussion paper in March this year.

The National Party acknowledged the problem in their new “Bluegreen Vision” document (p.16) and stated that they wanted to do something about it.

“So, this is a simple test for National. Will they join in the call for a clause in the China trade treaty stopping the importation of illegal and unsustainable timber and furniture, or, will they support Labour’s continued inaction allowing the destruction of tropical forests for cheap imports of timber and furniture?”

Dr. Russel Norman
Green Party Co-Leader
Green Party Spokesperson on Economics, Trade and Electoral Matters

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