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November 12, 2009

Animal Protection & International Trade: One Way Forward

Humane Society International

By Sarah Stewart 

Illegal wildlife trafficking, deforestation, climate change, protection of ocean resources—what do these animal and environmental protection issues (among others) have to do with international trade policy?

That is the question answered in "International Trade: One Way Forward for Humans, Animals and the Environment," (1) an essay authored by Patricia Forkan, The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) Senior Envoy to the Obama Administration and former President of Humane Society International (HSI).

International trade in many commercial goods and services impacts the environment and involves animals or animal products.

For example, unsustainable logging in one country for export to another not only degrades the environment and contributes to global warming as a result of deforestation, but also desecrates wildlife habitat, creates inroads for poachers, and helps fuel a rampant global illegal wildlife trade.

In her essay, Ms. Forkan discusses how HSI and The HSUS engage law and policy makers to ensure that while countries pursue the economic benefits of trade, animal and environmental protections are not forgotten, and where possible, are strengthened.

HSI and The HSUS have long worked hard to have explicit provisions involving biodiversity conservation and wildlife protection added into U.S. trade agreements. Only in recent agreements, however, has some progress been made. In the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, for instance, HSI and The HSUS advocated for and support requirements obligating both parties to combat trade associated with illegal logging and illegal trade in wildlife.

In her essay, Ms. Forkan also explains how trade policy must be coupled with on-the-ground trade capacity building programs that implement animal and/or environmental protection obligations. She references HSI’s engagement in a number of these programs in Latin America aimed at wildlife conservation, habitat protection, humane treatment of animals, and support for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers. Although these programs can result in great benefits for animals, habitat, and local communities, they must be backed by political will and sufficient funding.

On October 22, 2009, Ms. Forkan was invited to speak on a panel with other contributing authors about her essay and the future of trade policy at an event hosted by the Global Business Dialogue at the National Press Club. She was the only speaker whose remarks focused on the link between trade policy and animal and environmental protections. She explained that despite some progress at the bilateral and regional levels, incorporation of animal and environmental issues into U.S. and global trade policy has been slow, and animal and environment-friendly provisions are scarce in World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements. Because urgent issues like climate change and depletion of ocean resources are outpacing changes in trade policy, Ms. Forkan recommended that these and other issues immediately become part of the global trade dialogue.

Her message was clear: looking ahead, we must be even more ambitious.

¹Ms. Forkan's essay was published in Opportunities and Obligations: New Perspectives on Global and U.S. Trade Policy, a collection of essays and papers by prominent trade experts and influential policy makers, including former U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab, Chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel, and Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme Josette Sheeran, to name a few. Opportunities and Obligations was published in 2009 by Wolters Kluwer and edited by Terence P. Stewart, leading trade practitioner and managing partner of The Law Offices of Stewart and Stewart.

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