Wednesday 6 May 2009

EU: Fair Trade Communication

The Commission’s Communication on Fair Trade has now been posted on the Eur-Lex web pages (under 5 May 2009, the date of adoption):

Communication Contributing to Sustainable Development: The role of Fair Trade and non-governmental trade-related sustainability assurance schemes (Brussels, 5.5.2009; COM(2009) 215 final) offers an overview and ends with the Commission’s conclusions on the role of public authorities, including public procurement.

For the sake of convenience, here are the conclusions from page 10 and 11:


Given the potential contribution of Fair Trade and other trade-related sustainability assurance schemes to sustainable development, the Commission intends to stay engaged and further support such schemes. Where appropriate, this Communication may be followed by additional initiatives in one or more policy fields. At this stage, the Commission;

Reiterates the importance of maintaining the non-governmental nature of Fair Trade and other similar sustainability schemes throughout the EU. Public regulation could interfere with the workings of dynamic private schemes.

Observe that Fair Trade has a significant presence in much of the EU market and a high level of consumer recognition linked to the development and transparency of standards and principles underlying the system.

Observe that many different types private schemes can contribute towards sustainability objectives, but their multiplicity can carry risks of consumer confusion. The Commission sees scope for further reflection around the principles for maximising the impact of private trade-related sustainability assurance schemes, while avoiding entering into defining what are the appropriate sustainability standards to be followed by these private schemes: This is, however, without prejudice to compliance with relevant sustainability-related standards and legislation set by public authorities.

In this context the Commission;

Recalls that transparency and adequacy of information to consumers about standards of private sustainability schemes are key, and that there could be benefit from arriving at a common understanding of what basic process requirements, such as independent monitoring, are reasonable to expect.

Recalls that further assessment of the impact of private sustainability schemes could be a key step forward.

Intends to explore the scope for further dialogue, co-operation and, where appropriate, convergence between different private labelling schemes to promote possible synergies and enhance clarity for the consumer.

In the context of public purchasing, the Commission;

Underlines the interest of providing guidance to public purchasing authorities help realise the full potential contribution to sustainable development from their decisions.

Underlines that a contracting authority that intends to purchase sustainability assurance goods should use only criteria linked to the subject matter of their purchase and comply with the other relevant EU public procurement rules. Contracting authorities must always allow bidders to prove compliance with these standards by using Fair Trade labels or by other means of proof.

In the context of financing, the Commission;

Intends to continue funding for relevant Fair Trade and other sustainable trade related activities in accordance with its practice to date. This does not exclude the possibility of financing also more targeted actions in order to pursue priorities identified.

Recalls the need to assess the results of analyses of the impact of private sustainability assurance scheme on sustainable development parameters, including the implications for economic, social and developmental criteria in producing countries. Given the focus of private sustainability assurance scheme on the working and living conditions for producers in developing countries, the Commission considers that particular attention should be given to this aspect. Analysis should compare the impact of various private schemes so as to provide a basis for possible further initiatives in this field.

Ralf Grahn

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