Evaluating effects of world trade agreements on biodiversity conservation


Certain WTO rules prohibit different treatment of a product based on the way it is produced. This conflicts with governments that practice green procurement. Such governments, for example, purchase recycled paper to lower the demand for materials from native and unsustainably managed forests. Such practices could be challenged under WTO rules on the grounds that they discriminate against countries that log native forests.

The United States and states in the western United States have banned the export of unprocessed, or raw, logs from public lands. WTO rules prohibit such export bans.

WTO rules create obstacles for eco-labeling because it is based on how the product is produced, not simply on the product's characteristics. Eco-labeling enables consumers to identify and purchase items made from forest products produced in a sustainable and environmentally sound manner.


The 1999 report, "Our Forests at Risk: The World Trade Organization's Threat to Forest Protection" explains in detail how current trade agreements will effectively strip away hard-fought protections for forests. The report states, "trading away the forest protections that we have worked so hard to achieve is not an option. The WTO should not adopt new agreements liberalizing trade in forest products at the Seattle Ministerial meeting or in a new round. Instead, there must be a comprehensive review of the impact of all WTO agreements that impact forest ecosystems and biodiversity, and existing agreements must be reformed to protect forests and our environment before any new agreements are considered."


WTO rules for fostering free trade are not stringent enough with regard to invasive species and will inevitably allow bio-invasions which will threaten native forests. Invasive species are the second leading threat to forest biodiversity.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions