WTO trade wonks will have their chance to taste, smell and experience the benefits of fair trade agriculture at Cancun
Trade that benefits farmers, local processors and the environment is big business—and getting bigger. Three fair trade venues in Cancun will allow WTO ministers to experience trade with a human face.

 

CANCUN Mexico -- “Fair trade” advocates are going beyond talk in negotiations at Cancun. They have three venues for “show and tell” to let trade ministers taste, feel and see the evidence of what values-added trade with a human face looks like.

Cancun 2003 will include the International Fair Trade Fair, Sustainable Trade Symposium and a Fair Trade in the Americas Strategy Forum. Grassroots economic development advocates and producer groups joined forces to present the events to promote ethical, sustainable commerce. These will demonstrate that trade, under the right conditions, can be a powerful engine for revitalizing local economies and preserving the environment.

Organizers hope that WTO ministers will stop by for a fair trade coffee break, and learn first-hand how this system is keeping communities alive during the two-year record low in world market coffee prices. Artisans and farmers from 20 countries, displaying everything from Brazil nuts to chocolate to textiles, will provide shopping and tasting opportunities to delegates and their families.

Innovative fishers, farmers, foresters and artisans and the programs that support them will be highlighted at the symposium. The forum is the first in a series of gatherings where businesses, non-profit groups, governments and multi-lateral aid agencies can begin to form collaborations based on fair trade entrepreneurism.

Through fair trade, producers sell directly to importers, bypassing various intermediaries who often take the lion’s share of the profits. The system begins with guaranteeing fair wages to producers. An international fair trade certification system has been established that sets and monitors social and environmental criteria, growing to certify a dozen commodities and more than 100 related products. To date, more than $30 million has been paid directly to farmers from U.S. sales alone.

Fair trade certified products sales are growing fast. International sales in 2002 topped $400 million, being sold in more than 50,000 supermarkets and 70,000 other stores and cafes. In the United States, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Green Mountain, Aveda and Dunkin’ Donuts are among the more than 200 companies to offer Fair Trade certified coffee.

Advocates see Fair Trade as a proven solution, benefiting farmers and rural communities, while meeting a growing consumer demand in the United States and abroad for high quality products that respect producers, their communities and the environment.

Some world leaders already agree. "Fair Trade in cocoa is increasing incomes and empowering local producers," British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated in February 2003. "It is an inspiring example of the new partnership between developing countries and the developed world."

Fair Trade sales grew by an average of 30 percent globally, and by 50 percent in the United States in 2002, supported by a growing group of conscientious U.S. consumers who are willing to spend money to support their values and convictions.

In a 2002 Cone/Roper poll, 81 percent of U.S. consumers said they are likely to switch brands to help support a cause when price and quality are equal, and 92 percent have a more positive image of companies and products that support causes.


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