-- “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
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
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.