EU Trade Policy and the Wildlife Trade

06-12-2016

The wildlife trade is one of the most lucrative trades in the world. The legal trade into the EU alone is worth EUR 100 billion annually, while the global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth between EUR 8 and 20 billion annually. The trade is highly complex and its legal and illegal forms are often connected. The illegal wildlife trade cannot be tackled via the use of trade policy alone; instead trade instruments need to be used in conjunction with broader means of addressing the wide range of reasons why wildlife is traded illegally first place. This includes the need to reduce poverty and inequality in source countries, demand reduction in consumer countries and tackling corruption, organised crime, poor enforcement and low penalties in many source, transit and end user markets. The EU is also facing some new challenges in the legal and illegal wildlife trade, emanating from the growth of e-commerce, expansion of private mailing centres and the growth of containerisation. The EU already has a strong track record in promoting a legal and sustainable trade, while also attempting to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. The EU already has a legal framework (EUWTR) which sets out stricter arrangements than CITES for trading in wildlife products. It has played an active role at CITES since it joined as a member in 2015, and all 20 EU proposals were accepted at CITES CoP17 in 2016. It now has an opportunity to use trade policy to embed and develop this track record further.

The wildlife trade is one of the most lucrative trades in the world. The legal trade into the EU alone is worth EUR 100 billion annually, while the global illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth between EUR 8 and 20 billion annually. The trade is highly complex and its legal and illegal forms are often connected. The illegal wildlife trade cannot be tackled via the use of trade policy alone; instead trade instruments need to be used in conjunction with broader means of addressing the wide range of reasons why wildlife is traded illegally first place. This includes the need to reduce poverty and inequality in source countries, demand reduction in consumer countries and tackling corruption, organised crime, poor enforcement and low penalties in many source, transit and end user markets. The EU is also facing some new challenges in the legal and illegal wildlife trade, emanating from the growth of e-commerce, expansion of private mailing centres and the growth of containerisation. The EU already has a strong track record in promoting a legal and sustainable trade, while also attempting to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. The EU already has a legal framework (EUWTR) which sets out stricter arrangements than CITES for trading in wildlife products. It has played an active role at CITES since it joined as a member in 2015, and all 20 EU proposals were accepted at CITES CoP17 in 2016. It now has an opportunity to use trade policy to embed and develop this track record further.