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Canadian, European politicians say lumber boycott unlikely.

Canadian, European politicians say lumber boycott unlikely

Both the federal forestry minister and an influential European politician/ecologist play down the possibility of a boycott of Canadian forest products in Europe.

"I think it's premature to raise any fears about that," says Forestry Minister Frank Oberle.

And Jup Weber, a Green Party member of parliament in Luxembourg and a co-ordinator of a European boycott of lumber from tropical forests, does not foresee a similar action aimed at Canada.

"I couldn't imagine who would do it," said Weber, who is also a member of Ecoropa, an organization of elected politician and influential editors of environmental publications which promoted the boycott of lumber from tropical forests.

His concerns in Canada are forestry practices in British Columbia and preservation of the temperate rain forests which stretch from California to Alaska.

"I would say it would be quite difficult to organize a boycott for B.C. products," Weber admitted.

European consumers would not be able to distinguish B.C. wood from European wood, for instance hemlock from larch or pine, he explained.

However, the boycott of lumber from tropical forests has been successful because it is easy to distinguish from European varieties.

Asked if he had any objections to forestry practices in Northern Ontario, Weber said he could not comment because he has never visited the region.

CANADIAN CONCERNS

Oberle is concerned about the Canadian forestry industry's poor international image.

"I'm personally convinced that we don't deserve that image," he said, adding that he believes the negative impressions have been created by Canadian environment groups.

One group has gone so far as to link Canadian and Brazilian forestry practices, but Oberle refutes that accusation.

"The comparison is preposterous," he says.

Any major thrust against forestry practices in Canada could be similar to those against the seal hunt and fur trapping, Oberle warned.

"It would affect us all," the minister said, noting that the value of Canada's forestry exports is more than $20 billion.

"We're not taking anything like this lightly," he stated in a telephone interview from Ottawa.

The minister said it is ridiculous that some Europeans compare their own forestry practices with Canadian practices.

Europe has no old-growth forest, he explained, noting that in Sweden, for example, the old-growth forest was depleted 300 years ago.

However, the minister admitted that the image of Canadian forestry has suffered in recent months from stories in the media of killer mud slides in British Columbia linked to clear-cutting and of concerns about large clear-cuts affecting the climate.

"Basically there is an element of truth in everything said, but there is a lot of misinformation as well," Oberle said.

However, the minister said public opinion in Europe has not been negatively influenced.

"It's not a serious problem yet, but it could be."

Oberle said a strategy is being developed, in conjunction with several trade associations, to present a more accurate picture of Canada as a forestry nation.

The groups included the Council of Forest Industries and the minister's Forest Sector Advisory Council.

All Canadian trade commissioners stationed abroad have been asked to submit a situation report.

Oberle said impressions of Canada vary from country to country, but not one commissioner has reported anything serious.

Oberle said the government is also taking initiatives and measures to dispel the myths with facts.

For example, the forestry ministry is developing an updated base of data and facts compiled by professionals and scientists which will be suited to public consumption.

Up until a few months ago the government didn't have accurate figures showing the balance of trees being cut and planted in Canada.

As a result, when a senior official from the United Nations stated at a recent conference in Vancouver that Canada was cutting four trees for every one planted, the government was not in a position to respond until it gathered the facts.

The claim was totally wrong, Oberle said, noting that two trees are planted for every one cut. That does not include areas which regenerate naturally after forest fires or are as which are affected by insects.

THE VIEW IN EUROPE

Weber said the boycott of tropical wood was not organized by European governments, but usually by Green Party members and other politicians acting independently.

"I do not believe in any government boycott," he said, adding that European government are not very supportive of ecological issues.

Weber said the boycott has had a big impact on consumers. He noted that people in Luxembourg would rather pay more for a European oak than for tropical wood.

Weber also described Ecoropa as a very powerful force.
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:News and Features
Author:Bickford, Paul
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Words:767
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