What is fair globalization

EU globalization strategy should promote fair trade for all

On May 10th, the EU Commission adopted its reflection paper “Mastering Globalization”. It is the second document in a series on the future of Europe. The paper identifies seven main trends that shape globalization, including the growing “demand for fair trade, sustainable and local products”.

"Europe must help to rewrite the global set of rules so that free trade becomes fair trade," said Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the EU Commission in a press release.

Despite the encouraging press comment, however, the reflection paper mainly relies on free trade and deregulation to counter the negative effects of globalization and does not deviate much from current EU trade policy. Disappointingly, the paper even lags behind the EU's “Trade for All” strategy from 2015, in which trade according to ethical rules (trade with values), sustainable supply chains and fair and ethical trade initiatives was ascribed a more prominent role than in all EU trade strategies in front of her.

Furthermore, the reflection paper seems to follow the recommendations of the Commission's own think tank report "Sustainability now!" from July 20, 2016 to ignore. This demands that trade policy contribute to reducing global inequalities and contribute to qualitatively different and socially inclusive growth that preserves the ecological limits of our planet. This could take the form of further sustainability approaches and fair trade labels.

It is true that Europeans consume most of the fair trade products worldwide, but one should be careful not to reduce fair trade to voluntary, ethical consumption. The EU must not leave the issue of fairness to the market alone. A new global set of rules will not be fair for everyone as long as we tolerate companies making enormous profits at the expense of unsustainable textile production in the Global South. It will not be fair for everyone as long as the EU does not demand binding corporate due diligence on fair supply chains from importers. It will not be fair for everyone as long as we do not grant preferential market access to sustainable products. It will not be sustainable if the EU does not introduce tax rules that encourage sustainable consumption and make all procurement in Europe sustainable by 2030.

We recognize that this reflection paper can only be seen as the start of a process and look forward to participating constructively in the discourse on the future of Europe to ensure that the EU can implement fair trade for all.

by Sergi Corbalán, Managing Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office in Brussels

The Fair Trade Advocacy Office was founded in 2004 by the World Fair Trade Organization, the World Fair Trade Organization Europe and Fairtrade International and represents the interests of the fair trade movement on a European level. Link to the Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Sergi Corbalán's contribution (including the quotes from the EU Commission's reflection paper) was translated from English by the Forum Fairer Handel. Link to the original version of the comment