Walking the talk: putting Fair Trade into practice in the EU
14th July 2021, from 14.00 to 15.00 CEST
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Event hosted by the European Parliament Fair Trade Working Group to discuss concrete initiatives for the EU to contribute to Fair Trade worldwide
Event reportOn the 14th July 2021 the European Parliament Fair Trade Working Group hosted the event 'Walking the talk: putting Fair Trade into practice in the EU'. It was an occasion to deepen on concrete initiatives can the EU put in place to contribute to Fair Trade. The event took place shortly after the adoption of the European Parliament Resolution on the trade-related aspects and implications of COVID-19, which includes explicit calls to the Commission to promote bottom-up Fair Trade initiatives. The debate has aimed to put on the table proposals on how could this be done by showing the already existing good practices, but also the gaps and the need for EU support and promotion. The event has been co-hosted by MEP Bernd Lange, MEP Helmut Scholz and MEP Inmaculada Rodriguez-Piñero on behalf of the European Parliament Fair Trade Working Group. More than 60 participants from the EU and abroad have joined the event. These are the highlights of the event: Opening remarks MEP Bernd Lange has highlighted that, while in the recently published Trade Policy Review Fair Trade was not explicitly mentioned, it remains implicitly one of the main lines of sustainability. He welcomed the debate pointing at the relevance of this conference in the aftermath of the adoption, with a broad majority, of the above mentioned Resolution on the trade-related aspects and implications of COVID-19 Panel I. A Fair EU market. Proposals for the EU to promote the demand for fairly traded goods The first panel of this event was moderated by MEP Helmut Scholz, who guided the audience through bottom-up initiatives that are already making the difference when it comes to promoting Fair Trade. The main question that he addressed in this panel has how the EU can promote the demand for fairly traded goods Arwin Sohrabi Nejad, Chairman of Fairtrade city Malmö has guided the audience through Malmö’s journey to win the EU Fair and Ethical Trade City Award. He has proofed the importance of understanding the road towards sustainability as an organic process in which all the pieces of the puzzle must fit together, and the promotion of fair and ethical trading is one of them. For the city of Malmö the promotion of fair and ethical trading has never been an isolated activity, but a component of a still ongoing three decades journey in which a wide range of actors have been involved. He expressed the importance of sustainability for a city with high growth rate, in the case of Malmö, the city has tied a lot of its activities with its engagement of the 2030 Agenda, and considered the award as an enabler as an international recognition, but also an encouragement to advance further towards sustainability. His main take away: ‘Longevity and a vision to tie it into the broader work of the municipality’ David Joan Marí, of the Universitat Jaume I de Castelló introduced the successful work that Fair Trade Universities and already undertaking, and proposed ways in which, with EU support, they could be up-levelled. He guided the audience through the activities and values that are core to a Fair Trade University (9 of them have already achieved this recognition in Spain and others are on the process. These activities include, among others, responsible consumption markets, conferences and round tables, and specialised subjects in the curricula. He shared his vision of up-levelling this initiatives and giving them a transnational nature with further EU support (potentially in the context of a Fair Trade Week). This could, for example, lead to European Fair Trade travel aids to work in situ with producers, European Fair Trade Partnerships, and workshops for EU Universities to share their experiences or the creation of an European Fair Trade Observatory Samuel Poos, from the Trade for Development Center, shared the multilevel approach to Fair Trade that is flourishing in Belgium. This includes promoting Fair Trade Towns, Fair Trade Regions (such as Brussels-Capital) and the journey towards making Belgium a Fair Trade country, which is still an ongoing process. His presentation showed the importance of maintaining the good work that many cities are doing at municipal level (of which the Fair and Ethical City Award is a key component), but also going beyond that and using the leverage of regional and national authorities. The results for Belgium are encouraging: this multilevel approach has brought 90% of Belgians to have heard of Fair Trade (up from 30% in 2002), and an average expenditure in Fair Trade products of EUR 20.36 (up from EUR 8.6 in 2013). Sophie Tack, Director of Impact at Oxfam-Magasins du Monde and board member of the World Fair Trade Organization – Global, developed the idea of how could a EU Fair Trade Week look like in practice. This contributed to landing the proposals of other speakers (and of the European Parliament Resolution mentioned by MEP Bernd Lange in the opening remarks) in a concrete activity proposal. Her proposal is that, as opposed to the national Fair Trade Weeks (like the one in Belgium), the EU Fair Trade Week does not focus on awareness raising, but is rather an occasion for professionals to share experiences, challenges and build their capacities. It could be built upon the existing EU Fair and Ethical Trade City Award and take place in the same week, and could be inspired in the model of other thematic weeks such as the EU Mobility Week, or the EU Green Week. Panel II. Working with our partners. Promoting the offer of Fair Trade products and socially responsible enterprises in developing countries and through trade agreements The second panel deepened into the contribution of Fair Trade to sustainable development and the meaning of Fair Trade in the context of key policy objectives such as gender balance and workers’ rights. The panel was moderated by MEP Inmaculada Rodriguez-Piñero who opened the panel by stressing the need for trade agreements becoming an instrument that equals and facilitates progress for millions of individuals – with gender equality in mind. In this note she welcomed a panel composed exclusively by inspiring women. Jude Kirton Darling, Deputy Secretary General of Industry-All European Trade Union, highlighted the common agenda of Trade Unions and the Fair Trade movement and reminded the audience that ILO’s research has pointed at the consequences of unfair purchasing practices in all sectors, and in particular in the textile one. She has shared the key three initiatives that will be more relevant to bring fair trade benefits to workers: the review of the 15 point action plan on trade and sustainable development, for which she invites the European Commission and the European Parliament to take into account the non-paper developed by Civil Society about strengthening the Domestic Advisory Groups. Secondly, she highlighted the importance or an HREDD legislation that covers all companies and includes purchasing practices within the HREDD obligations. Finally, she shared that, together with Traidcraft Exchange, IndustriAll will publish a paper calling to expand the Agri-Food UTP legislation to the textile sector. Ruth Namaganda, Youth Representative, coach and farmer at Kibinge Coffee Farmers, Uganda, brought to the debate a concrete case of the contribution to gender balance that Fair Trade can trigger. One of her community’s most important challenge was the lack of employment, which affects especially women who work at home and in gardens, and have no access to incomes of commercial coffee crops. Her project has offered women training and empowerment. They also borrow materials so that women can launch their own initiatives. She has highlighted that Fair Trade enables these women to obtain fairer incomes for their work, called on MEPs to support Fair Trade initiatives and concluded that “when you support fair trade you support a coffee farmer who is in a rural country – when you buy a cup of Fair Trade coffee in the supermarket, you support my work. You know women are not always treated fairly, and through Fair Trade we have the opportunity to work on that”. First reaction by Ms. Maria Martin-Prat, Deputy Director General in DG Trade After the external participants, Ms. Maria Martin-Prat, Deputy Director General in DG Trade, took the floor to share her views on their proposals. She clarified that the approach of the EC to trade policy and Fair Trade is built from a broad perspective that encompasses climate change, support of workers and labour rights – both in the EU and globally. She introduced a historic perspective, highlighting the remarkable way we have already gone, from the frame of mind of the “trade AND sustainable development” to that of “sustainable trade policy”. She has shared with the audience the key elements of the Trade Policy review that are relevant to Fair Trade, including the importance of international cooperation and the prioritisation of the multilateral level; achieving the SDGs as an overarching goal for the trade policy; the improvement of the TSD Chapters of trade agreements (about which a public consultation will be launched soon), and the reference to the role of voluntary sustainability schemes. She also reflected on the need to strive for cooperation, even in the context of strategic autonomy. Open debate In the open debate, MEP Helmut Scholz reflected on the importance of going beyond raising awareness and actually put in place rules and legislation to deal with the current challenges, and on the complexity to involve in this reflection not only policy makers, civil society and academia, but also business operators. He concluded with the proposal to pick up the ideas shared in the event in the Conference on the Future of Europe. MEP Inmaculada Rodriguez-Piñero concluded by pointing at the need for women to be able to participate in trade in fair conditions, reminded the audience that we are still far from reaching this objective, and offered the European Parliament’s report on the modernisation of the trade pillar of the EU-Chile Association Agreement as an example of a step in the right direction. MEP Bernd Lange concluded that there is a need for shift in the orientation of the trade policy so that elements of Fair Trade are taken on board, and highlighted that the initiatives that we have heard today are important concrete activities so that we can communicate to the people the shift towards a more sustainable and fair trade. Ms. Maria Martin-Prat concluded highlighting the importance of putting the focus on what can be achieved in practical terms, and her openness to maintain the debate with the European Parliament and Civil Society to move forward. She agreed with the need to combine awareness raising and rules and offered as example of this twofold dimension. First, the fact that trade agreements have provisions promoting existing corporate social responsibility standards; Second, that the EU will be putting in place rules through the Sustainable Corporate Governance Initiative.
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