U.S.-Vietnam Leadership Fighting Illegal Wildlife Trade

by Amrietha Nellan

Among many historic moments during President Obama’s recent trip to Vietnam, the U.S. announced a new bilateral partnership to combat illegal wildlife trade, taking an important step to protect the world’s endangered species.

Vietnam is a major regional hub for illegal wildlife goods, both as a point of transit and consumer market, so with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development and Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the new five-year bilateral program to combat wildlife trafficking will focus on “four strategic areas”:

  • Reducing consumer demand of illegal wildlife products;

  • Improving wildlife crime legal framework;

  • Strengthening law enforcement and prosecution; and

  • Bolstering international cooperation.

This partnership establishes a plan for both countries to fulfill their commitments under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), the preeminent international agreement governing the international wildlife trade, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) enhanced wildlife trafficking provisions. In fact, since TPP negotiations completed, Vietnam has already taken action by revising the wildlife crime provision in its Penal Code. Environmentalists have lauded key changes, like criminalizing possession of illicit wildlife and related products and adding more protected species beyond CITES, that will help the country meet its requirements under TPP.

Vietnam’s proactive efforts and this new initiative to renew the fight against “transnational criminal enterprise” that threatens the “world’s irreplaceable biodiversity”  demonstrate the role of American leadership through TPP to forge international cooperation and stoke political will abroad to tackle progressive issues, like endangered species conservation.