Blood Trees

You’ve heard of “blood diamonds,” sold to fund the operations of rebel and terrorist groups. Leonard DiCaprio even starred in a movie about it. Unfinished diamonds are difficult to identify. So, an international compact, the Kimberley Process, was started to

document and track all rough diamonds entering a participating country, with shippers placing stones in tamper-proof shipping crates and providing enough detailed information about their origins to prove they did not originate in a conflict zone.

Wikipedia outlines the U.S. follow-through on the Kimberley Process

On January 18, 2001, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13194 which prohibited the importation of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone into the United States in accordance with the UN resolutions.[16] President Bush on May 22, 2001 issued Executive Order 13213 which banned rough diamond importation from Liberia into the United States. Liberia had been recognized by the United Nations as acting as a pipeline for conflict diamonds from Sierra Leone.[17]

United States enacted the Clean Diamond Trade Act (CDTA) on April 25, 2003,[18] and implemented on July 29, 2003 by Executive Order 13312.[19][20] The CDTA installed the legislation to implement the KPCS in law in the United States. The implementation of this legislation was key to the success of the KPCS, as the United States is the largest consumer of diamonds. The CDTA states: ‘As the consumer of a majority of the world’s supply of diamonds, the United States has an obligation to help sever the link between diamonds and conflict and press for implementation of an effective solution.[18]

There’s also, my name, blood trees.

NGO’s, like Global Witness, have studied and written extensively about the deforestation in countries where politicians line their pockets, destroy the culture and ability to survive of indigenous peoples (especially when they represent historic enemies of the regime), multinational businesses share in the profits, and international financial institutions that are supposed to help the poor fund many such projects.

I last wrote about blood trees, with links, in “Triangle of Death.”

Some in Congress are taking note, but their approach to the problem is not to beef up our customs inspections or require certifications, like with blood diamonds, but to enrich their political contributors, lawyers, in suing U.S. companies who have little ability to distinguish one tree and its origin from another in an imported finished product.

Senators Wyden and Kerry have introduced legislation that “would ban imports and sale in the United States of timber illegally harvested in such regions and levy fines of up to 10,000 dollars for transgressions.”

However, as the International Wood Products Association points out,

Creating new laws that make U.S. family businesses responsible for law enforcement in foreign countries, while at the same time not giving these companies any way to protect themselves against U.S. government prosecution, does nothing to stop this forest destruction….

Senator Wyden’s legislation holds U.S. businesses and their customers personally responsible and subjects them to civil and criminal punishment for any illegal activity that occurs overseas in forests, sawmills, in transportation and through foreign ports thousands miles away from their U.S. business. All of this burden would come without any way for legal importers to protect themselves from this extended liability.

Of course, there’s some self-serving in the Association’s defense, but there’s also self-serving in the Senators’ approach, to enrich lawyers.

Wyden and Kerry’s legislation “would extend the Lacey Act – which prohibits importation of wildlife taken in violation of conservation laws – so it would apply to wood and timber products.”

Instead of monkeying around, Wyden and Kerry should redraft their legislation to model the Kimberley Process and to provide added resources to customs investigators and inspectors.

Bruce Kesler

(cross-posted at Democracy-Project.com)

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