The globalization of the pulp and paper industry – Introduction

9 Sep

By Chris Lang, MSc Thesis, Oxford University, 1996.

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This study aims to examine the globalization of the pulp and paper industry, in the light of the recently completed book Pulping the South by Ricardo Carrere and Larry Lohmann. Part I of the study examines their analysis of the pulp and paper industry and its impact on the South, focussing especially on the institutions involved in the promotion of the spread of the pulp and paper industry to the South. Part II is based on the situation in Vietnam, and examines how these institutions are involved in the promotion of the reforestation programme today in Vietnam. Part III consists of an overview of the pulp and paper in Vietnam followed by three case studies: a large Swedish aided pulp and paper project; three industrial plantations producing wood chips for export; and an Australian aid project with the aim of reforestation rather than raw material production. The case studies have been chosen both to illustrate the argument, and to look at three quite different approaches to reforestation in Vietnam.

At forest policy level, it appears that Carrere and Lohmann’s analysis is justified, and many institutions appear in their stereotypical roles in Vietnam. There is little doubt that many reforestation projects in Vietnam are simply the result of the North’s demand for paper and the North’s need to export both expertise and machinery. The picture is somewhat complicated by a number of projects which appear (at least in the short term) to be genuinely successful, such as the planting of Australian provenances of Melaleuca leucadendra in the Mekong delta.

The political background to the establishment of plantations in the South forms the core of the study. Plantations and the global expansion of the pulp and paper industry are not possible without a range of subsidies including international “aid”. “Aid” functions as a form of international diplomacy, perhaps best illustrated by the example of the Pergau Dam “aid for arms” deal between Britain and Malaysia, and has little to do with benefiting the poor in the South.

A key role of employees in the upper echelons of consultancy firms such as the Finnish Jaakko Pöyry Group is to negotiate deals with Southern governments and Northern aid agencies. Activities such as producing reports, feasibility studies, environmental impact assessment studies, sector reviews, and so on are of comparatively minor importance to such consultancy groups. Jouko Virta the chairman of Jaakko Pöyry Consulting, for example is trained as a lawyer, and has no background in forestry. His role is to lubricate the flow of aid from the North to the South in order to subsidize the global expansion of the pulp and paper industry, thus ensuring a continued supply of work to his company. Democracy is thus undermined in both the North and the South.

Although work on mitigating the impact of industrial plantations is of course important – plantations exist, and will continue to be established in the South – it is essential to see the establishment of plantations as part of a political process. Northern NGOs’, aid agencies’ and forestry research organizations’ emphasis on the importance of negotiation, participation, and/or consultation with local people is in danger of becoming completely irrelevant in the context of the political negotiations that ensure that industrial plantations are established in the South. By the time such participatory procedures are established at village level, the plantation project has been designed, funded, and the necessary political machinery irrevocably set in motion.

There are too many vested interests at stake for “solutions” to the problems outlined in this study (and in much more detail in Pulping the South) to come from within the pulp and paper industry’s friendly institutions. Such vested interests were well illustrated during the World Bank’s Forestry Sector Review consultation meeting held in London in 1993. When it was pointed out from the floor that no one present at the consultation was directly affected by any of the Bank’s forestry projects, John Palmer, a forestry consultant, was overheard to say that he had been directly affected by World bank projects several times, and “had done very well out of the process, thank you very much!”

This study aims to place the reforestation programme in Vietnam in a political context, illustrating the vested interests and political allegiances involved and the way in which local communities and democratic processes are excluded from the development process.


ABECEL – Association of Brazilian Cellulose Exporters

AIDAB – Australian International Development Assistance Bureau

AFPA – American Forest and Paper Association

ACIAR – Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

APPITA – Australian Pulp and Paper Industry Technical Association

ATSC – Australian Tree Seed Centre, CSIRO

AusAID – Australian Agency for International Development

CDC – Commonwealth Development Corporation

CEPI – European Conferderation of Paper Industries

CGIAR – Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

CPPA – Canadian Pulp and Paper Association

CRES – Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, University of Hanoi

CSIRO – Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

CT&D – Central Trading and Development (Taiwan)

EIA – Environmental Impact Assessment

EODC – European Overseas Development Corporation

ETS – European Tissue Symposium

FAO – United Nationas Food and Agriculture Organization

FRC – Forestry Research Centre

FSC – Forest Stewardship Council

FSIV – Forest Science Institute of Vietnam

GOV – Government of Vietnam

HTI – Industrial Forest Plantation (Indonesian abbreviation: Hutan Tanaman Industri)

IRRI – International Rice Research Institute

ITFFR – International Task Force on Forestry Research

MITI – Ministry of Trade and Industry (Japan)

NGO-CORD – NGO Coordinating Committee on Rural Development (Thailand)

ODA – Official Development Aid

ODA – Overseas Development Administration (UK)

OPIC – Overseas Private Investment Corporation (US)

OSB – Overseas Service Bureau (Australia)

PID – Project Information Document

PRA – Participatory Rural Appraisal

RVAC – Rung Vuon Ao Chuong (Forest, Garden, Pool, Animal Husbandry)

SALT – Sloping Agriculture Land Technology

SIDA – Swedish International Development Authority

SIPC – Shell International Petroleum Company

TFAP – Tropical Forestry Action Plan (renamed Programme in 1991)

TPPIA – Thai Pulp and Paper Industries Association

UNDP – United Nations Development Programme

VN – Vietnam News

WALHI – Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia Indonesian Forum for the Environment

WBCSD – World Business Council for Sustainable Development

WRI – World Resources Institute

WWF – World Wide Fund for Nature

YLBHI – Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation

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