FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2017
Washington, DC – The United States Government took the unprecedented step today of excluding timber from Peruvian exporter La Oroza SAC from the US market due to persistent problems of illegality. The US-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) contains a unique Annex on Forest Sector Governance, which was intended to improve the problem of the illegal harvest and export of timber from the Peruvian Amazon. It also contains enforcement and other provisions to ensure that illegal Peruvian timber does not enter the United States.
In 2015, two timber shipments from Peru to the US were the subject of US Lacey Act investigations and resulted in the destruction of the illegal timber, including from La Oroza, which sent strong signals that illegal Peruvian timber will no longer be accepted in export markets. However, the resulting changes in Peru have not addressed the widespread illegal harvest and trade of Peruvian timber. In 2016, a verification conducted under the Forestry Annex into a shipment from La Oroza found more than 90% of timber was illegal. Instead of confronting this problem, the response from Peru’s logging industry and certain elements of the Peruvian government has been to decrease transparency, claiming that traceability is not possible and using the very information designed to provide alerts about illegalities to game the system. Today’s action by the USTR proves that these efforts will no longer succeed.
“In my work as the Director of OSINFOR, together with SUNAT – ADUANAS, we took action against high-risk timber exports, identified companies that sold illegal timber, and alerted public institutions, private actors, and civil society,” says CIEL Fellow Rolando Navarro Gómez. “Despite this and a new forestry law that supposedly guarantees the traceability and legal origin of wood, they have continued to export illegal timber using official documents granted by the forest authorities. Our work helped to shed light on La Oroza’s illegal activities, which ultimately resulted in their exclusion from the US market.”
CIEL has been engaged with efforts to reduce illegal logging in Peru for over a decade, including through supporting the development, implementation, and enforcement of the Forest Sector Annex. A soon-to-be-released report by CIEL demonstrates the ways in which the Peruvian timber exporters, acting with the complicity of certain government actors, use “continuous improvement” to avoid transparency and continue their trade in high-risk timber.
“The exclusion from the US of timber from Peru for persistent illegalities should be a wakeup call for the Peruvian government and timber exporters. They bet on continuing their modus operandi of selling stolen wood with official documents, but today that bet failed,” says CIEL Senior Attorney Melissa Blue Sky. “Exports from the entire Peruvian forest sector will be excluded from all major markets if they do not scrap the current model and start from scratch, by ensuring that the trees authorized for harvest are those that accompany the transit permits, from the forest floor to export terminal.”
The Peruvian government should guarantee legal timber trade inside and outside Peru, and generate high-risk alerts during visual inspections of shipments prior to export, as provided for in Peru’s forest and wildlife legislation, and recent commitments made by Peru under the US-Peru TPA.
Melissa Blue Sky, Senior Attorney, Office +1 202-742-5845, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rolando Navarro Gómez, Fellow, email@example.com (Spanish)