US trade officials ask Peru to verify logging shipment

Two congressional Democrats applauded U.S. trade officials for asking Peru to verify whether a timber shipment last year was legally harvested and exported.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Senate confirms No. 2 spot at HHS, days after Price resigns Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax CEO faces outraged lawmakers | Dem presses voting machine makers on cyber defense | Yahoo says 3 billion accounts affected by 2013 breach MORE (Ore.), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said that while efforts have been made to bolster the protection of Peru's forests, more work needs to be done to halt illegal logging operations.

"Today’s action will help strengthen the hands of trade enforcers in both Peru and the United States to protect the forests from destruction and law-abiding companies from unfair trade," Wyden said. 

Besides the implementation of the U.S.-Peru trade deal in 2009, Levin said House Democrats nine years ago addressed illegal logging and deforestation in Peru as part of their May 10th agreement to add enforceable environmental and labor standards into trade agreements.

“However, Peru’s record on implementing its environmental obligations under the Peru TPA has been deeply troubling, as illegal logging remains a pervasive problem," Levin said. 

“USTR’s action today is a welcome step, but as members of Congress have expressed, much further work urgently needs to be done to ensure that Peru meets its obligations under its existing trade agreement with the United States," he said. 

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Thursday that it has asked Peru's government to verify that a 2015 timber shipment exported to the United States complied with Peruvian laws and regulations under the trade deal. 

 “Today’s announcement is an important step forward in our shared commitment to combat illegal logging, which threatens our environment and the legitimate businesses that are abiding by the rules," said U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael FromanUS will investigate aluminum imports as national security hazard Overnight Finance: WH floats Mexican import tax | Exporters move to back GOP tax proposal | Dems rip Trump adviser's Goldman Sachs payout Froman heads to Council on Foreign Relations MORE.

Peru is one of 10 other nations besides the United States that recently signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

On Feb. 11, Wyden asked the United States to formally request that Peru verify whether certain companies shipping timber to the United States have complied with Peru’s forestry laws.  

His letter followed several recent incidents underscoring the challenges of stopping illegally harvested timber products from leaving Peru and entering the United States.

More than three years ago, the United States and Peru agreed to tackle problems in the forestry sector, such as improving systems to track timber exports and ensuring timely criminal proceedings for forestry-related infractions.

The United States has provided nearly $75 million in technical assistance since the trade deal entered into force in 2009.