News and press releases

WTO Public Forum Side Event – Transforming Global Trade for Smallholders: Building Back Fairer Post COVID-19

On 29th September 2021, Fairtrade International organised an event as part of the WTO Public Forum 2021. An exceptional group of panellists spoke about how to transform global trade for smallholders. They discussed lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis and how to Build Back Fairer.

The panel was composed of:

  • Daniel Legarda, Ecuador’s Vice-Minister of International Trade,
  • Roxana Cayo, President of the National Fair Trade Platform in Bolivia
  • Anders Aeroe, Director of Division of Enterprises and Institutions at the International Trade Centre,
  • Nyagoy Nyong’o, Global CEO of Fairtrade International.

Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, served as moderator.

Summary of the event

View the recording here

Time to stop Unfair Trading Practices in the garment supply chain

29 September 2021

Traidcraft Exchange, industriAll European Trade Union and the Fair Trade Advocacy Office call for national and European policy options to eradicate Unfair Trading Practices being applied by garment retailers and brands on their suppliers to level the global playing field.

Today, Traidcraft Exchange, industriAll European Trade Union (industriAll Europe) and the Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) published a joint paper on the policy options to eradicate Unfair Trading Practices in the global garment sector. The paper looks into the precedent of the EU Directive in Unfair Trading Practices in the agricultural food supply chain and argues for the urgent need for a similar legislative instrument for the garment sector.

The paper demonstrates that Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) are preeminent in global garment supply chains and are deeply interlinked with the current structure and functioning of the sector which is unfortunately known for its vastly unequal power relationships between different actors. Indeed, the SARS-COV-19 (COVID-19) crisis has both demonstrated and amplified the flaws of the system and resulted in abusive practices and costs being imposed on producers in the EU and abroad.

Judith Kirton Darling, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe, said:

 “The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the dreadful impact of Unfair Trading Practices on garment workers both in Europe and further afield. Not only did workers suffer due to cancelled shifts and factory closures, some workers had to fight for wages for work already done with big brands refusing to pay for work not shipped due to COVID-19 restrictions. We must rebalance the power in the garment supply chain to ensure that workers are paid justly and are treated fairly. ‘’

The paper offers an overview of some of the main Unfair Trading Practices faced by garment producers, such as disproportionately low buying prices – which are often below the cost of production, short manufacturing lead times, poor payment terms, unilateral amendment contract terms, or shifting the risks so that producers are the ones facing them.

Charlotte Timson, CEO at Traidcraft Exchange, added:

“We can tackle these unfair trading practices by prohibiting abusive contract terms, as was done through the EU’s agri-food Unfair Trading Practices Directive. This instrument outlaws specific behaviour such as unilateral cancellations, unilateral amendments or retro-active discounts.”

The joint paper highlights the precedent of the EU Directive on UTPs in the agri-food supply chain as a building block on the way forward to eradicate these practices from the garment sector. The organisations recall that the European Parliament has already acknowledged the need to take action to combat unfair practices beyond the agri-food industry, and recommend trade unions and civil society, EU Member States and the European institutions take action to make it happen.

The publication of the paper coincides with the recent adoption of an Explanatory Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on the transposition and implementation of the EU Directive on the agri-food supply chain. In the opinion, entitled Towards a fair food supply chain (NAT/823), the EESC welcomes the efforts undertaken by Member States which have addressed, through their transposition laws, issues that go beyond the minimum requirements of the EU Directive.

With regard to the adoption of the opinion, Jorge Conesa, policy manager at the FTAO and appointed expert by the rapporteur of the opinion, highlighted that “many of the challenges and dysfunctions that the EU decided to address through the agri-food UTP Directive are -at least- equally severe in the garment sector and it is, therefore, logical to undertake a similar legislative approach to tackle them”.

Read the full Joint Paper: ‘Leveraging the Unfair Trading Practices Directive to benefit the Garment Sector’

Read the EESC Explanatory Opinion:‘Towards a Fair Food Supply Chain’


Towards a Fair Food Supply Chain  

Press release 

23 September 2021

By request of the Slovenian Presidency, the Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment  (NAT) section of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has prepared an exploratory opinion on the effective achievement of the objectives of the Directive on unfair trading practices in the agricultural and food supply chain. The opinion includes best practices from Member States and offers guidance for an effective transposition and implementation. 

In its opinion, the EESC welcomes the EU Directive as a step forward in addressing power imbalances along the chain. It stresses the importance of fair prices as enabling factor for investment, innovation and sustainable production; welcomes the resilience of the food supply chain during the COVID crisis; and calls for an ambitious transposition and implementation of the Directive by EU Member States  

The EESC particularly highlights the cases of Member States which have gone beyond the minimum standards imposed by the Directive and taken legislative action to offer additional protection to supply chain actors by, for example: 

  • Putting a ban on the return of unsold products without paying for them or in passing the buyer’s storage cost onto the supplier (Germany) 
  • Forbidding buying below production cost (Spain, possibly Italy as well) 
  • Setting up ombudspersons to independently monitor the implementation of the law and to ensure anonymity for complaints, inter alia (Spain and Germany) 
  • Modifying the turnover requirement so that the transposition law can cover larger actors (Germany, -preliminary- Belgium and Spain) 
  • Banning double race auctions (possibly Italy) 
  • Setting obligation to have written contracts for all operations (Spain) 
  • Setting a revision process in 2 years (instead of 4 as indicated in Directive) (Germany)  

In its opinion, the EESC highlights the need to ensure that transnational operations are also effectively protected by the Directive and its transposition laws. Ensuring that non-EU actors have the right tools and information will require specific action from the EU and its Members States.  

The opinion also identifies gaps on the Directive, such as the ‘step approach’ which implies that a supplier who has a large turnover but a ‘de facto’ weaker position would not be able to complain; or the fact that some UTPs that are now considered as ‘grey UTPs’ (ie. accepted only under certain conditions) should be prohibited altogether. 

While the deadline to transpose the Directive expired in May 2021, several Member States have still not notified its transposition to the Commission. Consequently, the Commission issued letters of formal notice to 12 Member States in July 2021. This opinion is expected to accelerate the transposition process and to push for an ambitious and effective implementation. 

Related links 

Read the full opinion here  

The clock is ticking 

Further reading on our work on Unfair Trading Practices can be found here.











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Press Release in English

16 September 2021

Ahead of the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, set to be held in Glasgow this November, actors of the global Fair Trade movement have published a position paper calling on the international community to ensure that ambitious climate aims go hand in hand with climate and trade justice goals.

Every human being on the planet will be affected by the consequences of climate change if decisive action is not taken soon. However, we will not all suffer from it to the same extent. The structural inequalities in our economic systems that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare could be exacerbated by a rapidly changing climate.  The contributions of farmers, workers, and producers are key to address this issue and achieve a sustainable future. This will require the eradication of business models based on an extreme imbalance in negotiating power between buyer companies and producers that lead to the former imposing abusive conditions on the latter.

There can be no climate justice without fair trade. It would be unacceptable for farmers and producers to bear the full costs of the climate transition on their own. Policymakers must ensure they receive the support they need to make this shift while making sure they obtain fair prices for their products.



The clock is ticking: two Months Left to transpose the EU Unfair Trading Practices Directive

On Monday 1 March, The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) along with 13 civil society organisations and trade unions, has published a joint statement on the transposition of the EU Directive on Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) in the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain. Only two months are left before the deadline for EU Member States to transpose these EU rules. The Statement calls for ambitious national laws transposing the Directive in every single EU Member State. read more

New EU Trade Policy, fair enough?

Brussels, 18 February 2021 – Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission has unveiled today the new EU Trade Policy, which builds on three main pillars: openness, sustainability and assertiveness. The Fair Trade movement welcomes the commitment to “promote value chains that are circular, responsible and sustainable” but regrets the lack of concrete proposals to make this happen. read more