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EU Trade Commissioner Reiterates EU’s Commitment to Promoting Global “Fair and Ethical” Trade Conditions and Support for Fair Trade Schemes

On 12 October 2016, at a European Parliament breakfast meeting with MEPs and representatives of local authorities and civil society organisations, the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, delivered a speech reiterating the EU’s commitment to promoting global “fair and ethical” trade conditions. The Trade Commissioner emphasised that goals such as the reduction of global poverty, the promotion of workers’ rights and the protection of the environment will continue to be a “key element” of the EU’s trade policy.

In her speech, Malmström reiterated the Commission’s pledge to promote fair and ethical trade in accordance with the Commission’s ‘Trade for All’ strategy. Hong Kong traders may already be aware that the Commission’s Directorate General for Trade launched the strategy in October 2015 through a Communication entitled “Trade for All - Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy”. This new approach aims to shape the EU’s trade and investment policy by taking measures to support sustainable development, human rights and fair and ethical trade, including by ensuring the effective implementation of related provisions in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP).

As part of its ‘Trade for All’ policy, the Commission has committed to securing European levels of consumer, environmental and social protection and to ensure that these will become a part of EU trade agreements in the future. Free trade agreements are also to contain provisions to promote respect for labour rights around the world. The Commission has announced that it will make it a priority to see that the EU’s trading partners implement provisions on core labour standards like the abolition of child labour, the rights of workers to organise themselves and non-discrimination at work.

In her speech of 12 October 2016, the Trade Commissioner provided an overview of the measures which she sees as priorities in the EU’s work towards promoting fair trade at the global level. These measures include:

  • The negotiation and implementation of sustainable development provisions in the EU’s trade agreements;
  • The negotiations with 16 other major economies for an Environmental Green Goods Agreement (EGA);
  • The achievement of responsible business conduct, including through partnerships such as the Myanmar Labour Rights initiative; and
  • The promotion of fair and ethical trade schemes.

In respect of the last point, Malmström stressed the importance of fair and ethical trade schemes to achieve the EU’s fair trade goals, regarding them as an essential part of the EU's efforts to ensure responsible supply chains that respect human rights, labour rights and the environment.

She further noted that these schemes have increased European consumers’ awareness of how decisions to buy certain products can affect people and the environment in other parts of the world, adding that this increased consumer awareness has ultimately been converted into tangible benefits for producers and workers in developing countries.

According to Malmström, fair and ethical trade schemes are important tools to promote the EU’s objectives of:

  • Creating more awareness among consumers both in developed countries and in the growing consumer class in emerging economies;
  • Achieving more take-up of the fair trade method by producers in developing countries; and
  • Ensuring that as much as possible of the retail price paid by consumers actually reaches the farmers and producers for whom it is intended.

Malmström further said that fair and ethical trade schemes are supported by the sustainable development chapters of EU free trade agreements. She reported that all of the EU’s recently concluded free trade agreements commit both sides to promote voluntary sustainability schemes like fair trade.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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