17 June 2014

Africa: JFK International Airport Fights Illegal Wildlife Trade

New York — Facilities at John F. Kennedy International Airport that serve to keep trade safe and help combat illegal trafficking in wildlife were the highlight of a June 16 tour by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Representative Gregory Meeks.

At the June 16 event, Froman and Meeks emphasized the benefits of President Obama's trade agenda and highlighted the role that JFK International Airport plays in fighting illegal trade in endangered species.

"Major export hubs like JFK International Airport make an invaluable contribution to the United States economy while also working to help keep trade safe," Froman said. "Today we got a first-hand look at the work officials at JFK are doing to bolster the fight against international illegal trafficking in wildlife, which is a priority in two of the largest trade agreements we are negotiating and part of the Obama Administration's broader strategy to combat wildlife trafficking."

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is working to address the global crisis by expanding efforts to fight illegal wildlife trafficking in the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the Asia-Pacific region and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union.

"I greatly appreciate Ambassador Froman taking time out of his demanding schedule for a tour of the John F. Kennedy International Airport, and a roundtable at York College," said Meeks. "Ambassador Froman was able to see first-hand the efforts at the airport to combat illegal wildlife trafficking and intercept the pirating of intellectual property."

"The high demand for wildlife products is having a devastating impact, with iconic species like elephants and rhinos facing the risk of significant decline or even extinction," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who planned to participate but was unable to attend due to travel complications. "The president's strategy to combat wildlife trafficking, including decreasing demand at home and abroad, is important to strengthen our nation's leadership on countering the global security threat posed by the criminal markets that encourage poaching and illegal trade."

Illegal international trafficking in wildlife has escalated in recent years, fueled by increased demand for items like rhino horn and elephant ivory in Asia. The trade poses a threat to global security because it involves criminal elements of all kinds, including some terrorist entities.

Froman told reporters that the United States considers poaching a threat because it is driven by criminal elements that use the profits from illegal wildlife trade to finance their activities.

The Obama administration is working to reduce demand for illegal animal products at home and abroad. On February 11 it released the National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking, an overarching document that guides U.S. efforts to mitigate the wildlife trafficking crisis. The strategy's goals are strengthening enforcement, reducing demand and building partnerships to combat poaching and illegal trade.

Many U.S. agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Agency for International Development, USTR and the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and State, are participating in the effort.

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