Commercial Trade of Wildlife - Trade Policies And Agreements
act wto lacey united
The Lacey Act
In the United States, the indiscriminate slaughter of wildlife in the nineteenth century brought about the extinction of numerous species. The Lacey Act was passed in 1900 and represented the first national conservation law. The Lacey Act prohibited interstate transport of wildlife killed in violation of a state law, and also allowed individual states to prohibit import of wildlife or their products even if killed lawfully. For example, egret plumes taken in a state where the bird was protected could not be shipped to other states; in addition, a state could outlaw entry of the plumes even if collection was legal in the exporting state. In 1908 the scope of the Lacey Act was expanded to include wildlife imported from abroad. The Lacey Act contributed to the elimination of the meat markets where the last Labrador ducks were sold, and of the plume trade that nearly led to extinction for the snowy and common egrets as well as other water birds.
Two comprehensive amendments to the Lacey Act in 1981 and 1988 added important new restrictions and increased the fines for illegal trade of wildlife. The amended Lacey Act now covers all CITES- and state-protected species. Its regulations apply to species, their parts, and products made from them. Illegal import or export of wildlife-related contraband is now a federal crime. The amended Lacey Act also makes it illegal to provide guide or outfitting services for would-be poachers. The Lacey Act authorizes fines and jail time for offenders. Fines and penalties, authorized at $10,000 maximum by the amendment of 1981, were increased more than tenfold by the Criminal Fines Improvement Act of 1987, with penalty limits now as high as $250,000 for misdemeanors and $500,000 for felonies. Lacey Act enforcement agents are authorized to carry firearms under the amended act, and rewards are authorized for those who provide tips to law enforcement.
The North American Free Trade Agreement
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1993 by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Its goal was to remove trade barriers among the three nations by eliminating most tariffs, investment restrictions, and quotas. Conservationists feared that the passage of NAFTA would weaken U.S. species and environmental protection laws. This had resulted earlier from the signing of another free trade agreement, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Under GATT, laws for wildlife protection were sometimes judged to be "technical barriers to trade." For example, in 1991, Mexico used GATT to successfully challenge U.S. tuna-import restrictions intended to protect dolphins. Similarly, U.S. loggers successfully sued under GATT to prevent the British Columbian government from subsidizing the replanting of forests, arguing that it was an unfair subsidy for Canadian loggers.
The Environmental Investigation Agency, a watch-group for environmental issues, concluded that NAFTA's elimination of trade barriers would stimulate the already high demand for wildlife products from Mexico. It added that trade liberalization among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada would result in increased border crossings, facilitating illegal trade and placing an even greater burden on overworked FWS inspectors and agents.
The World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a global trade association that promotes trade among nations and possesses broad authority to rule on trade disputes. The original WTO agreements were signed at Marrakech, Morocco in April 1994. As of April 2004 the organization included 147 member nations.
Environmentalists have frequently been critical of the WTO, charging that it is unconcerned about environmental issues when these conflict with trade and development. Conservationists also fear that the WTO could force the U.S. to back down on environmentally friendly laws that restricted trade, just as GATT had done. This fear was realized when India, Thailand, Pakistan, and Malaysia petitioned the WTO on U.S. shrimp import legislation. In particular, these countries objected to U.S. laws prohibiting importation of shrimp from countries without turtle excluder device (TED) regulations for the protection of endangered sea turtles. In April 1998 the WTO ruled that the U.S. laws were discriminatory. Conservation groups called on the U.S. government to defy the WTO decision, fearing the environment would take a back seat whenever a direct conflict arose with free trade. The United States attempted a compromise, requiring environmentally friendly fishing practices from foreign nations only when shrimp was earmarked for export to the United States.
A similar compromise was proposed with regard to dolphin-safe tuna fishing, and the federal government agreed to disregard its own policy in order to maintain its standing in the WTO. Critics alleged that the United States had placed the fate of the American environment in the hands of other nations. Many critics considered the move a serious blow to environmental protection.
In the wake of these decisions, a series of WTO meetings held in Seattle, Washington from November 29 through December 4, 1999, erupted in massive civil unrest. Over 50,000 protesters from around the globe participated, protesting vehemently against diverse policies of the WTO, including its attitudes towards the environment, human rights, sweatshops, labor unions, wages, and the price and quality of food. Special-interest groups engaged in the protests included the Humane Society, the Sierra Club, the Center for Science and the Public Interest, Global Exchange, the United Auto Workers, and numerous others. An estimated $6 million in damages resulted from the demonstrations, and over 600 protesters were arrested. The WTO meeting was entirely shut down, if only temporarily.