What is Fair Trade?
Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to empowering developing country producers and promoting sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.
Fair trade's strategic intent is to deliberately work with marginalized producers and workers in order to help them move from a position of vulnerability to one of security and economic self-sufficiency. It also aims at empowering them to become stakeholders in their own organizations and actively play a wider role in the global arena to achieve greater equity in international trade. Fair trade proponents include a wide array of international development aid, social, religious and environmental organizations such as SERRV International, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Catholic Relief Services, and Caritas International.
In 2007, Fair trade certified sales amounted to approximately €2.3 billion (US $3.62 billion) worldwide, a 47% year-to-year increase. While this represents a tiny fraction of world trade in physical merchandise, fair trade products generally account for 1-20% of all sales in their product categories in Europe and North America. In June 2008, it was estimated that over 7.5 million disadvantaged producers and their families were benefiting from fair trade funded infrastructure, technical assistance and community development projects.
The currently accepted definition of Fair Trade has been agreed by FINE, an informal association of four international fair trade networks (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, World Fair Trade Organization, Network of European Worldshops and European Fair Trade Association):
Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair Trade Organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade. Fair Trade products are produced and traded in accordance with these principles — wherever possible verified by credible, independent assurance systems.