The United States has blocked imports from a Peru timber exporter suspected of illegal logging in a move that is the first of its kind. But the impact of the decision on the illicit trade in Peru is likely to be limited due to widespread corruption in the South American country.
The United States has blocked timber imports from the Peruvian Inversiones Oroza company for three years, based on evidence that the commercial entity deals in illegal timber.
The "unprecedented" decision was taken under the 2009 United States - Peru Trade Promotion Agreement's (PTPA), explains an October 19 press release from the Office of the United States Trade Representative. The bilateral deal allows the United States to request that the Peruvian authorities verify the origin of an exporter's timber.
Based on accusations by "public reports" that Inversiones Oroza's timber came from illegal logging, the United States made such a request to the Peru government in February 2016 with regard to a specific shipment held by US authorities since 2015 in the port of Houston, according to El Comercio.
The Peruvian probe showed that "significant portions of the Oroza shipment were not compliant with Peru's law," according to the press release.
"Illegal logging destroys the environment and undermines US timber companies and American workers who are following the rules," said US Trade Representative Robert Ligthizer. Linking the decision to President Donald Trump's political platform of defending the economic interests of the United States in international trade deals, he warned it "will continue to closely monitor Peru's compliance with its obligations under our trade agreement."
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The decision to move against Inversiones Oroza sets a positive precedent against a lucrative illict activity that is particularly harmful to Peru's Amazon forest, the second largest in the world behind Brazil's. With nearly $24 million worth of timber imports, the United States was Peru's fifth commercial partner for that specific sector in 2016.
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But despite this commercial weight, the impact of US import sanctions remains highly uncertain. Indeed, the United States is reliant upon Peruvian authorities to probe the timber's origin under the mentioned treaty. Unfortunately, as journalistic investigations have repeatedly revealed, Peru's timber industry suffers from corruption at every level of a traditionally unregulated sector, which may well hinder the efficiency of verification processes.