Guest Post by Tim Wilson
Unions and industry that want to roll back the progress of free trade increasingly are using environmental causes as a disguise.
For years Australian green groups have claimed mass deforestation and illegal logging is occurring in Asia. In response, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund have advocated for burdensome regulation and trade bans, including on toilet paper.
Seeing a market opportunity, the toilet paper industry and unions have started voicing similar concerns and solutions. And there’s no surprise why. An Australian Customs Service report calculated that the potential downward pressure of imports could be as high as 42 percent of the price.
But the evidence supporting the need for trade restrictions is weak. A recent report commissioned by the Australian government identified the insignificance of the problem, with imports from Asia incorporating 0.32 percent of illegally logged material.
Despite that fact, industry and unions now are running campaigns of their own. The forestry union was a significant financial contributor to the “Wake Up Woolworths” campaign to pressure the major Australian supermarket chain Woolworths to stop using imported toilet tissue.
But digging deeper reveals that they actually were pushing for consumers to buy “Australian-made paper products … [so] thousands of Australian workers [are] paid properly … [and] more of your money stays in Australia.”
Both unions and industry have a history of working with green groups at the expense of consumers. Major toilet-tissue product manufacturers KCA and SCA are members of the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest and Trade Network. And SCA has reportedly paid £10 million to WWF to use its logo on their products.
Similarly, the Forestry Union previously has worked with the World Wildlife Fund on climate-change policies.
Sadly these campaigns appear to be part of a spreading green protectionist disease, where industry, unions and green groups work together. In the United States the disease was brought to life by the Lacey Act, which imposes extra regulation on imported wood and wood products to certify their origin and make them less competitive.
Hopefully the green protectionist disease won’t spread further.
Tim Wilson is director of the Sustainable Development Project at the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia and the author of “Green Excuses: Collusion To Promote Protectionism,” available at www.sustainabledev.org.