Commission passes on hot potato on Unfair Trading Practices

15 July 2014 (Brussels)The European Commission has missed the chance today to push for a level playing-field and robust enforcement mechanism on Unfair Trading Practices. Instead, it calls on industry and EU Member States to take action and delays its decision to end 2015. The Fair Trade movement regrets the negative impact this non-decision will have on workers and farmers supplying the EU market.

The European Commission issued today a Communication Tackling unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food supply chain1 as a follow-up to the Green Paper on Unfair Trading Practices of 31 January 20132. In this policy document, the European Commission has decided, for the moment, neither to legislate nor to put in place a robust enforcement mechanism against Unfair Trading Practices.

The Fair Trade Movement is satisfied that the European Commission recognises that Unfair Trading Practices have a negative impact on “weaker parties in third countries, including in developing countries" and the existing “fear factor” amongst suppliers. It is also satisfied that the Commission realises that the “Voluntary Supply Chain” initiative, set up by a number of industry trade associations, does not guarantee sufficient confidentiality for suppliers and that, without independent enforcement mechanism, the initiative is not sufficient to be effective.

In light of the pertinent analysis by the European Commission services, the Fair Trade movement is therefore all the more disappointed by the lack of political courage to put in place a level-playing field on Unfair Trading Practices and a robust enforcement mechanism at EU level, which would be the logical consequence of the serious issues identified by the Commission services.

Over 43,000 signers from Europe and Latin America had called earlier this year on the European Commission to put in place a robust EU enforcement mechanism against the abuse of power in supply chains3. Unfair Trading Practices affect millions of producers in and outside of the EU but also the quality and range of the food which we are able to buy in Europe. The failure to act by the EC will result in a continuation and increase of short-notice forced overtime being required of farmers and workers as well as poverty incomes on precarious contracts. It will also continue creating food waste4.

Voluntary codes with inappropriate enforcement had already been tried in the UK with the clear result that a system that does not guarantee anonymity is not equipped to overcome the “climate of fear”. This situation prevents suppliers from complaining in the first place because it would jeopardise their economic existence if they were delisted as a retaliation for a complaint they raised against their abusive buyers.

The announcement by the Commission coincides with the appointment of its new Head, Jean-Claude Juncker, who stated in his programmatic agenda presented today to the European Parliament “We need more fairness in our internal market5”.

Sergi Corbalán, Fair Trade Advocacy Office Executive Director stated  “We welcome the commitment to fairness by the new European Commission President and ask him to put in place as soon as possible a level playing field and robust enforcement mechanism against Unfair Trading Practices”.

A pdf version of this press release can be found here.

ENDS

The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) speaks out on behalf of the Fair Trade movement for Fair Trade and Trade Justice with the aim to improve the livelihoods of marginalised producers and workers in the South. The FTAO is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the European Fair Trade Association and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe. Through these three networks the FTAO represents an estimate of 2.5 million Fair Trade producers and workers from 70 countries, 24 labelling initiatives, over 500 specialised Fair Trade importers, 4,000 World Shops and more than 100,000 volunteers.

 

Contact:

Peter Möhringer | moehringer@fairtrade-advocacy.org | Tel: +32 (0)2 54 31 92 3

Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Village Partenaire - bureau 1 | 15 rue Fernand Bernierstraat | 1060 Brussels – Belgium

www.fairtrade-advocacy.org



1 Press release and memo issued today can be found under: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-831_en.htm

2 Green Paper available from: http://eur-lex.europa.eu

3 The British Institute of International and Comparative Law recently issued a report setting out how European Enforcement mechanism should be set up to stop Unfair Trading practices (UTPs) within food supply chains serving the EU market. Please see here - http://www.biicl.org/newsitem/6070  and http://www.biicl.org/files/6952_biicl_enforcement_mechanisms_report_-_final.pdf  for more information.

4 “Catalyst for change” National Farmers Union 2012 report www.nfuonline.com/assets/6106

Fair Trade movement congratulates first Fair Trade-enthusiast European Commission President

15 July 2014 (Brussels) - The European Parliament has elected today Jean-Claude Juncker as new President of the European Commission. Mr Juncker, a self-declared Fair Trade-enthusiast, is the first Commission President to have endorsed a Fair Trade Manifesto ahead of his appointment. The Fair Trade movement calls on Mr Juncker to add ensure the new College of Commissioners puts in place an enabling policy environment for Fair Trade across EU policies.

Joomla JCJ bubble4  Joomla JCJ manifesto

Click here and here for higher resolution pictures of Mr Jean-Claude Juncker endorsing the Votefor Fair Trade Manifesto on 9 April 2014.

Following today’s election by the European Parliament of Jean-Claude Juncker as new President of the European Commission, the Fair Trade movement congratulates Mr. Juncker for being the first President of the European Commission to have committted to support Fair Trade ahead of his appointment.

In his earlier position as Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Mr Juncker “enthusiastically” supported Fair Trade, as he told the Fair Trade movement in a video interview on 9 April 2014, ahead of the European elections. On this occasion, he also stated “we have to introduce this dimension, the dimension of Fair Trade into our trade policies and into part of our trade agreements with others in the world. Fair Trade is a real issue”.

Jean-Louis Zeien, President of the Board of Fairtrade Luxembourg stated: “Jean-Claude Juncker has been supporting Fair Trade for twenty years, since the Fairtrade Labelling initiative was set up in Luxembourg in 1992. When he was Prime Minister, his administration was one of the first to purchase Fair Trade coffee. During a Fair Trade breakfast in May 2008, at the Château de Senningerberg with the government of Luxembourg, he made a declaration in favour of integrating Fair Trade in public procurement.”.

Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, stated “We are thankful for the support that Mr Juncker gave to Fair Trade as Prime Minister of Luxembourg”.

The Fair Trade movement calls on Mr Juncker to put in place an enabling policy environment for Fair Trade across EU policies during his mandate as President of the European Commission..“We call on Mr Juncker to pass on his enthusiasm for Fair Trade to the new team of Commissioners” said Corbalán.

The upcoming European Year for Development in 2015, during which Luxembourg will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, will provide a timely opportunity for the European Commission, and the government of Luxembourg, to put Fair Trade on the EU table. 

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Mr Juncker at a Fair Trade breakfast organised by Fairtrade Luxembourg on 9 May 2008 in SenningenLuxembourg. Click here for a higher resolution picture.

A pdf version of this press release can be found here.

Contact:

Sergi Corbalán | Executive Director

Tel: +32 (0) 2 543 19 23 | corbalan@fairtrade-advocacy.org

Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Village Partenaire - bureau 1 | Rue Fernand Bernierstraat, 15 | 1060 - Brussels - Belgium

www.fairtrade-advocacy.org/vote4ft-campaign

Four hundred European Parliament elections candidates and three lead European Commission Presidency candidates commit to Fair Trade

21 May 2014 (Brussels) - Three leading candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission have endorsed the Fair Trade Manifesto and almost four hundred candidates for the European Parliament elections have committed to support Fair Trade and Trade Justice, if they are elected.

Keller Schulz Juncker web

Click here for higher resolution pictures of respectively the group, S. Keller, M. Schulz and J.-C. Juncker.

The Fair Trade movement launched in 2013 the Vote for Fair Trade (Vote4FT) campaign, with the financial assistance of the European Commission, with the objective to create a dialogue between EU citizens, Fair Trade producers and EU decision-makers on the policies that the EU should put in place to support Fair Trade. A key document in this campaign is the Fair Trade Manifesto, which lays down themain five demands to the European Union for the 2014-2019 term.

The Manifesto has been signed by key candidates to the European Parliament elections from various European political families in the Parliament, including the European People’s Party, the Party of European Socialists, the European Green Party, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the Party of the European Left. Ten of these candidates, across twenty-two EU countries and parties, seized the opportunity to explain why they support Fair Trade in short videos available online. The support to Fair Trade among candidates to the European elections was the highest in Italy, France and the Czech Republic. The list of candidates per country can be seen on an interactive map on FTAO website.

 

Note to the editor:

The Fair Trade movement is composed of 2.5 million producers and workers from 70 countries, 24 labelling initiatives, over 500 specialised Fair Trade importers, 4,000 World Shops and more than 100,000 volunteers. On the run up to the European Parliament elections taking place from 22 to 25 May, the Fair Trade movement has engaged with European Commission Presidency and candidates running for the European elections in more than 23 EU Member States, asking them to endorse the 5 demands in the Fair Trade manifesto and making the results available on the campaign website.

 

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This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of Fair Trade Advocacy Office and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

 

European Citizens' Initiative demands: Stop negotiations for TTIP and CETA

European Citizens' Initiative STOP TTIP

Press release, 15 July 2014 

ECI-Registration 15 July 2015 – criticism: insufficient democratic participation and weakening of standards 

Today, Tuesday (15 July), the 47th European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) has brought forward its motion for registration at the European Commission. The initiative “STOP TTIP” asks the EU Commission to recommend to the EU Council of Ministers to repeal the negotiating mandate for the Trade Investor Partnership (TTIP) and not to conclude the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) either. Behind the initiative are standing nearly 148 organisations from 18 EU member states. In Germany, the organisations Attac, Campact, Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), More Democracy (Mehr Demokratie e.V.), Environment Institute Munich and the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Unit (NABU) coordinate the preparations. Amongst many others, Transparency International Germany, Greenpeace Luxembourg, 38 degrees (UK), War on Want (UK), Unison (UK), and Tierra (Friends of the Earth Spain) belong to the European coalition, which is growing constantly.

“The centre of our criticism is the democratic dimension of the planned agreement: rules, which have far-reaching consequences for 500 million EU citizens in 28 member states, are negotiated behind closed doors. This is what we oppose”, says Michael Efler, representative of the ECI's citizens' committee and spokesperson of the federal association More Democracy (Mehr Demokratie e.V.). In particular, he criticises the planned Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). These are rules concerning investment protection, which grant foreign investors far-reaching protection rights. If e.g. a national parliament passes a law, which would affect the investment and profits of a company, the latter would have the right to file a suit – however not in front of a public court but in front of a confidential arbitral court. Democratically legitimized decisions and constitutional procedures would be thwarted. “The plans on regulatory cooperation are dangerous as well. They would lead to a constraint of democratic control. That means: They would set up a sort of early warning mechanism for planned trade-related laws or regulations. It would allow the contracting party and lobbyists to voice their interest even before the parliamentary process. Unwanted regulations that could hamper market access could be prevented in this way”, Michael Efler explains.

John Hilary, executive director of the British organization War on Want and member of the citizens' committee, further states: "The TTIP agreement should not be understood as a treaty between two competing trade partners, the EU and USA. Instead, it is about the common attempt of multinational companies on both sides of the Atlantic to break open markets at the expense of consumer protection, food safety, environmental provisions, valuable social standards, regulations on the use of toxins or regulations on bank safety." Open calls for tender on public services are to be opened for the application of transnational companies as well. "One concrete example can be found in the different principles underlying consumer and environmental protection in the EU and the US," Hilary emphasizes. "The precautionary principle, which is used in the EU, ensures stricter regulations regarding, for example, the approval of chemicals. Through TTIP, however, a company could gain the right to register its product in the US and to place it on the European market afterwards." In US markets, the 'ex-post' approach applies. This means that only when the harmfulness of a product has been explicitly proven, it is taken off the market. The obstacles for approval are therefore lower at the beginning, Hilary concludes.

Susan George, President of the Board of the Transnational Institute Amsterdam (TNI), honorary President of ATTAC-France and member of the ECI's committee explains that hundreds of bilateral and pluri-lateral trade and investment agreements have already been signed – but the TTIP is exceedingly dangerous because it has been prepared by transnational corporations for 20 years. These huge companies have shaped the content and become an official part of the TTIP process at the invitation of governments, to the exclusion of all other citizens. However, this treaty can be defeated as was the case for the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), also negotiated in secret which was beaten in 1998 by a strong citizens‘ movement, partly because it contained the same exorbitant rights for corporations as the TTIP, such as the Investor to State Dispute System (ISDS) allowing them to sue governments in private tribunals for damages if they consider that a government decision would interfere with their present or even hoped-for, future profits. The companies thus seek to privatise not only the judiciary, but also a substantial part of governments’ legislative functions by taking over decisions on regulations and standards. They could even intimidate the executive branch with the threat of a barrage of lawsuits if it tried to improve laws concerning banks, labour, the environment, change, food safety, health, etc. “The TTIP is a grave threat to democracy – the ECI wants democracy, not ‘corporatocracy’”, George concludes. Since 1 April 2012, citizens of EU states have the possibility to request a legislative act from the European Commission: the ECI. At the same time a successful ECI forces a hearing at the European Parliament. For an ECI to be successful, at least one million signatures must be collected. Moreover, country-specific quorums must be achieved in at least seven EU member states. Further facts on the planned European Citizens' Initiative:

You can find the wording of the ECI here:

www.stop-ttip.org/registration

Each ECI needs a citizens' committee consisting of seven members. You can find information about the members here:

www.stop-ttip.org/members

The start of signature collection for the anti-TTIP-ECI is planned for September this year. You can find a detailed time schedule here;

www.stop-ttip.org/schedule

More Democracy (Mehr Demokratie e.V.) has commissioned an independent legal opinion, which reviews the legal legitimacy in advance. It comes to the result that ECI is admissible. You can consult the legal opinion here:

www.stop-ttip.org/legal-opinion

The members oft he ECI-coalition: stop-ttip.org/more-about-the-eci/

If you wish to be updated on the ECI you can subscribe to the ECI's press mailing list by contacting Regine Laroche, Mehr Demokratie e.V. (presse@mehr-demokratie.de).

 

A pdf version of this press release can be found here.

EU-US trade talks: People have the right to know what’s at stake

Brussels/Washington, May 19, 2014 – Over 250 civil society organisations and networks have today called on the European Commission to open up the EU-US trade negotiations for public scrutiny. The fifth round of negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) begins today in Washington amid growing frustration at the secrecy of the process.

In a letter to European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, the organisations ask for the publication of the negotiating mandate, all documents submitted by the European Union during the negotiations, and the negotiating texts themselves [1]. Citizens have the right to know what is being put on the table, and how this is being negotiated, say the groups.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “These negotiations have the potential to impact upon many aspects of life for citizens here and in the US, from food or chemical safety to the environment. The European Commission cannot continue to remain deaf to civil society calls for transparency – people have the right to know what’s at stake.”

In February Friends of the Earth Europe, ClientEarth, Corporate Europe Observatory, the European Environmental Bureau and the European Federation of Journalists requested access to the negotiating mandate of the European Union, as well as text relating to the positions on issues such as regulator cooperation, the investor-state dispute settlement, the chemical sector, food safety, sustainable development and energy [2]. The European Commission denied access to all.

Under the guise of 'regulatory coherence', safeguards related to these issues will be put up for negotiation. This has raised concerns among many actors about the likely weakening of public safeguards and new institutional structures, and about allowing excessive industry influence over decision-making [3].  As it stands, Friends of the Earth Europe remains concerned the deal will trade away democracy in Europe, and safeguards that protect people and the environment.

“It’s amazing that the longest living democracies in Europe and the United States cannot negotiate in public” said Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth United States. "Why keep these negotiations secret? Why do corporate lobbyists have privileged access to negotiators and text and not the public?”

Negotiations for a trade deal between the European Union and the United States started in July 2013. If agreed, the deal will be the biggest bilateral free trade agreement in history.
 
***
For more information please contact:

Natacha Cingotti, corporate and transparency campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe, (FRE/EN)
Tel: +32 (0) 492 948 898, email: natacha.cingotti@foeeurope.org

Sam Fleet, communications officer, Friends of the Earth Europe, (EN)
Tel: +32 (0) 2893 1012, email: samuel.fleet@foeeurope.org

William Waren, Friends of the Earth U.S.,
Tel: +011 1 202 222-0746, email: wwaren@foe.org

***
NOTES:
[1] Over 250 organisations, including trade unions, consumers, grassroots and development organisations and transparency watchdogs are calling on the European Commission to open-up the EU-US trade talks and make the negotiation process more transparent: http://www.foeeurope.org/right-to-know

[2] http://www.foeeurope.org/eu-us-trade-people-have-right-to-know-190514

The groups requested access to the following documents:
a) The text of the EU mandate;
b) The text of the EU’s positions on regulatory cooperation, ISDS, the chemical sector, food safety, sustainable development and energy as disclosed to the Government of the United States;
c) Any other reports or papers provided to the US by the EU on the topics identified above in b);
d) Any reports or papers provided to EU Member States and the European Parliament on the topics identified in b) above.

[3] http://www.tni.org/pressrelease/proposed-plans-useu-trade-deal-would-weaken-health-consumer-worker-and-environmental
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