U.S. Major Importer of Illegal Asian Timber, Study Says

– From the National Geographic:

“Vietnam’s furniture exports reached U.S. $2.4 billion in 2007, a ten-fold increase since 2000.

The United States is by far the largest market for Vietnamese wooden furniture, accounting for almost 40 percent of the exports.”

Vietnam has become a hub for processing Asia’s illegally logged timber, much of which is sold in the United States as outdoor furniture, conservationists say.

In a report released in March, the U.K.-based nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and its Indonesian partner Telapak warned that the illegal timber trade is threatening some of the last intact forests in Southeast Asia, especially in Laos.

“Despite wide awareness of the problem of illegal logging and a series of political commitments to tackle the issue, demand for cut-price wood products is still fuelling the illegal destruction of some of the worlds most significant remaining tropical forests,” said Julian Newman, head of the EIA’s forest campaign program.

It is currently legal in the United States to import illegally sourced wood products. But legislation now under consideration in the U.S. Congress would ban imports of wood products derived from illegally harvested timber.

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