On Tuesday May 6th, 2003, President George W. Bush and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong signed the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which will significantly relax the rules governing trade between the two countries.
Singapore, the world’s busiest port and the first Asian country to sign a free trade agreement with the US, has long been known to act as a major center of illegal trade in endangered wildlife and wildlife products. This document reveals evidence demonstrating how the city-state also plays a key role in smuggling illegally cut timber into other Asian countries and in some cases into the United States.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which specializes in investigating environmental crime, fears the US-Singapore FTA, as it stands, will trigger a major increase in Singaporean controlled exports of illegally cut timber into the US. The Office of the US Trade Representative, which led the US negotiations, admits that “international trade can play a role in stimulating, enabling or rewarding illegal activities in a number of Asia-Pacific countries where illegal logging (is) a significant cause of deforestation.”
To avoid this outcome, it is imperative that both Singapore and the US act quickly to prohibit the import, export, transshipment or possession of illegally cut timber within their borders.
For the past five years, EIA and Indonesian campaign partners Telapak have investigated the massive illegal logging in Indonesia’s national parks and areas of outstanding biodiversity. By tracking the major export trade routes of the millions of cubic meters of illegally cut timber, we have implicated Singapore and Malaysia as major recipients and traders of these products.
Undercover investigations by EIA and Telapak in April 2003 confirmed Singapore to be a central hub for laundering illegal shipments of Ramin, a highly valuable and endangered tree species found only in Indonesia and Malaysia, onto world and US markets. Indonesia banned the export of Ramin through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The remaining shipments from Malaysia and a single Indonesian certified concession must now be accompanied by proper CITES permits.
This report presents evidence that over US$ 3 million of Ramin was imported into the US without the required CITES permits from or through Singapore between September 2001 and July 2002. Almost 52 percent of all Ramin shipments into the US during these ten months passed through or originated in Singapore. Total illegal Ramin imports — i.e. without CITES permits — into the US during this period may have exceeded US$9 million.
The United States recognizes that illegal logging results in devastating environmental, social and economic costs on timber producing countries. Since the 1997 Denver Summit of the G8 major industrialized nations, the US has led international efforts to promote meaningful commitments to eliminate illegal logging around the world. It has been actively supportive of regional forest law enforcement initiatives in Asia and Africa and has pursued practical measures to combat illegal logging in a variety of international fora.
This report was launched to coincide with the in-depth discussion about the American Congress American Free Trade Agreement-Singapore. This report explains in detail how Singapore laundering illegal timber to global markets and provides evidence of illegal shipments to the United States. This report calls on the United States and Singapore to take immediate action to stop the trade in illegal timber.
Author: Telapak and EIA
Download: pdf file (1220 KB) and zip file (1170 KB)