|Since the signing of the U.S.-Singapore FTA, the amount of illegal Indonesian logs and sawn timber reaching the United States has reportedly increased by 62 percent.
Photos courtesy of the EIA
More information on the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and similar agreements can be found through the Office of the United States Trade Representative at www.ustr.gov or through the U.S. Department of State at www.state.gov. For more information on the Environmental Investigation Industry’s Campaigns, visit
W&WP: In terms of cubic feet and/or dollars, do you have any estimates as to how much timber has been cut illegally overall and since the agreement was signed?
Von Bismarck: Direct imports from Singapore to the U.S. of wood products are projected to be around $17 million, nearly tripling since the signing of the FTA. A much greater amount reaches the U.S. via trans-shipment through Singapore, which is significant because such operation allows smugglers to alter paperwork and disguise the timber’s origin.
From a select database from U.S. customs, we were able to identify nearly 7,000 tons of illegal Indonesian logs and sawn timber reaching the U.S. via Singapore in 2005, a 62 percent increase over 2003, which is simply a case study that illustrates how the law is openly flouted. The most important lesson from the Singapore example is what it says about future trade deals: It was announced to be “a template for other agreements.”
W&WP: When purchasing imported lumber, what should manufacturers look for to ensure it is not smuggled?
Von Bismarck: It’s almost impossible to tell; that’s why the government needs to assist industry in separating legal from illegal timber.
While tropical hardwoods remain a focus of concern, avoiding them isn’t a guarantee either, since species are mis-declared and illegal logging plagues softwood and temperate species. Ideally, the U.S government would get the ball rolling soon to set up systems of licensing and independent verification [such as the Forest Stewardship Council’s program] that will allow manufacturers to access the international market with a secure and clean conscience.
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