Discussion Paper

Tariff Liberalization, Wood Trade Flows, and Global Forests

Nov 1, 1999 | Roger A. Sedjo, R. David Simpson


This paper examines the question of the likely effects on global forests of a further reduction in wood products tariffs including both solid wood products and pulp and paper, as has been proposed to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC). The tariff reductions would be an extension of the tariff reductions associated with the Uruguay Round (Federal Register 1999). The questions include both how international trade is likely to change in response to further tariff reduction and also the implications for timber harvests and forests generally of such trade liberalization in the various forest regions. The paper finds that the evidence suggests further reductions in tariffs on forest products are likely to generate only very modest increases in worldwide trade and production, and the increased harvest pressures on forests due to tariff reduction should be quite modest. The major countries likely to experience export and production increases are found largely in the northern hemisphere and are likely to be able to facilitate additional harvests with minimal effects on the forests due to the modest nature of the impact, new forest practices laws, new forest set-asides, and movement toward improved practices designed to achieve multifaceted sustainable forestry. Furthermore, there is little reason to expect that tariff reductions will significantly increase harvests from tropical forests. Earlier tariff reductions appear to have had minimal impacts on tropical harvests or exports. Nevertheless, tropical forests will remain under deforestation pressure due to land conversion objectives, commonly to provide additional agricultural lands.