Timber smuggling booming in Singapore

Environmental Investigation
13 June 2005

For Immediate Release

In Singapore, Business is Booming for Timber Smugglers Two Years After U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement

The much heralded U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has totally failed to deliver on its environmental commitments. Two years ago today, the United States and Singapore pledged to stem the tide of illegal timber and other environmentally sensitive goods flowing through Singapore. The environmental side agreement to the U.S.-Singapore FTA, however, remains nothing but an empty promise.

The Bush administration is publicly committed to combating illegal logging, which results in about $1 billion lost annually to the U.S. timber industry, both in devalued domestic sales and lost exports. Yet, due to lack of political will and unwillingness to provide financial support for measures to prevent trade in illegal timber and other environmentally sensitive goods, such as improving customs in Singapore, the governments have done nothing to halt this destructive trade.

The illegal timber trade in Southeast Asia is an international crisis, and Singapore is one of its most important hubs. Yet, the two governments have not even produced an action plan, the first of the measures they committed to doing, said Juge Gregg, senior campaigner for EIA. It is tragic that in two years, the United States and Singapore havent committed to a single concrete action to stop this trade.

The recent Indonesian seizure of two barges en route to Singapore packed with illegal endangered wood demonstrates that the city-state remains a haven for timber smugglers. In addition, numerous expos? by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a non-profit organization specializing in exposing environmental crime, and the Indonesian non-profit Telapak have highlighted the continuing tide of illegal timber, ozone depleting substances and endangered species flowing through this major Southeast Asian port to the United States and elsewhere.

The United States intends to use the U.S.-Singapore FTA as a template for other free trade agreements in the region. This failure of the U.S.-Singapore FTA does not bode well for environmental components of the pending Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and other free trade agreements under negotiation, said Gregg.

Contact Details:

Allan Thornton
Cell: (202) 361-6941

R. Juge Gregg
Senior Campaigner
Cell: (202) 276-7297

Editors Notes:

EIA is an independent, international non-profit organization committed to investigating and exposing environmental crimes around the world. EIA works undercover to expose international environmental crime such as the illegal trade in wildlife, timber and ozone depleting substances. More information at www.eia-international.org.
Telapak is an independent environmental non-profit group based in Bogor, Indonesia. More information at www.telapak.org.
The US-Singapore FTA went into effect in January 2004.
Last month, police apprehended two boats carrying timber after the crew failed to show proper documentation. These boats were about to be dispatched to Singapore with their full loads of illicit timber.
Singapore is the worlds busiest port and the first Asian country to sign a free trade agreement with the U.S.
The Memorandum of Intent for Cooperation on Environmental Matters was signed on June 13, 2003 by the U.S. and Singapore. As a first step, the agreement promises that the countries will develop an action plan to address environmental crime. The countries have yet to even complete the action plan.
Over the past two years, EIA and other environmental groups have repeatedly exposed Singapore as the center of smuggling routes for timber as well as wildlife and ozone depleting chemicals. For further information see EIA reports on EIAs website (www.eia-international.org): Singapores Illegal Timber Trade and the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, The Last Frontier, and Lost in Transit.
EIA has repeatedly urged the US and Singapore to live up to their commitment to crack down on the illegal timber trade. Singapore needs dedicated environmental enforcement personnel and the type of customs controls for environmentally sensitive goods that are standard in the U.S.
In July 2003, President Bush announced the Presidents Initiative Against Illegal Logging, committing the United States to combating illegal logging. In March of this year, the administration again committed to a range of actions to tackle illegal logging as an outcome of the G8 Environment and Development ministerial meeting.
The American Forest & Paper Association places the global value of illegally-sourced logs, timber and plywood at $23 billion. This illicit trade depresses world prices by 7 16% on average.

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