Interview with Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of Fair Trade Advocacy Office
You are the Director of Fair Trade Advocacy which is based in Brussels. Could you please introduce your organisation?
The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the World Fair Trade Organization and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe. Our office in Brussels leads the Fair Trade movement political advocacy at European Union level and contributes to the strengthening of the political advocacy capacities of the global Fair Trade movement. Therefore, EU monitoring on the impact and relevance of EU positions on Fair Trade is crucial for us before it comes to advocacy work. Providing those information and policy analysis to the Fair Tarde movement is one of our day-to-day business we do. Besides monitoring, the FTAO is leading political advocacy work towards EU recognition while doing research, identifying, promoting and influencing EU policy frameworks. By doing so, for us it is important to build capacities and facilitate exchange of information on best practices with regard to sustainable value chains and fair and ethical trade schemes to define our policy demands.
What are the main barriers to fair trade in the agricultural sector in the Global South?
Unfortunately, international trade and supply chains are based on a fierce level of competition amongst suppliers and countries where squeezing suppliers to source the cheapest products is common practice. This commercial pressure results in lower prices and unfair trading practices applied to farming producer cooperatives, which in turn result in less income for farmers and lower wages for agricultural workers. Farmers are often not big, strong or organised enough to negotiate decent terms of trade with their buyers. In this context, it is essential that farmers receive support. Governments in the producer countries have also a key role to play by strengthening organised farmers and trade unions. Fair Trade certification schemes and Fair Trade Enterprises can partner up with farmers and governments to work towards marginalised producers receiving a larger share of value. They can also support farmers that are victims of unfair trading practices by EU buyers, in particular when the new EU rules on unfair trading practices in food supply chains come into force.
On 19 December 2018, the EU reached a political agreement on new set of rules that will ensure protection of farmers and of a large majority of EU agri-food companies against unfair trading and commercial practices. What impact will this have on farmers from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific?
We welcome the new EU rules, which will create a level-playing field that offers protection to all suppliers to the EU market who are exposed to unfair buying practices such as late payments or cancelled orders. This protection applies regardless of where the supplier is based. Any ACP agri-food company that is selling directly to an EU-based customer should familiarize themselves with the terms of the Directive. Once it has passed into law around Europe (by the middle of 2021 at the latest), if a supplier feels that they are being treated illegally they can make a confidential complaint to an enforcement body in the EU country in which their buyer is established. The enforcement body will investigate the case and can fine any buyers found guilty. These new EU rules are an achievement we should celebrate!
On June 22nd 2016, CTA organised the 44th Brussels Development Briefing – part of a series of bi-monthly development briefings on ACP-EU rural and agricultural issues, on Responsible and sustainable sourcing through Fair Trade. Over 120 participants gathered in Brussels to discuss the major developments and lessons in responsible and sustainable sourcing through Fair Trade model, with a broad range of perspectives across the value chains. Responsible and sustainable sourcing through Fair Trade This Briefing focused on the successful approaches to sourcing from ACP countries using the Fair Trade model, with an emphasis on how this has contributed to responsible and sustainable production and business practices in both Northern and Southern markets. The Briefing was a follow up to the 2008 Briefing on the theme of “Does Fair Trade contribute to sustainable development?” and demonstrated the significant developments and achievements of the movement, its members and partners since this period.