Fair Trade European Parliament Breakfast with Executive Vice-president Dombrovskis: Putting fairness and sustainability at the core of new EU trade policy

In June 2020, the European Commission launched a major review of the EU’s trade and investment policy. Following a recent call from Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to include a Fair Trade sub-section in the new EU Trade Strategy, Commission Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis was invited to join the European Parliament’s annual Fair Trade Breakfast yesterday (8 December 2020) to further engage in constructive dialogue.

The virtual event, followed by 150 participants from across the EU, was hosted by the European Parliament’s informal cross-party Fair Trade Working Group. The event provided a space to highlight the potential of a renewed EU trade policy, with a greater focus on Fair Trade, for creating real benefits for people, the planet, and the economy.

MEP Bernd Lange, Chair of the Working Group, opened the breakfast by reiterating the importance of shaping an enabling trade environment, supportive of fair and sustainable supply chains. He presented the Fair Trade ‘shadow section,’ which aims to address some untapped opportunities for EU trade policy to become a driving force in the implementation of the UN Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals, the European Green Deal as well as the Paris Agreement. The attendees were presented with the seven main pillars contained in the ‘shadow section’:

  • The proposal to establish an EU Fair Trade week
  • The inclusion of Fair Trade criteria in public procurement schemes
  • The promotion of Fair Trade initiatives through EU programmes involving youth and the private sector
  • The promotion of Fair Trade initiatives as a priority objective in the implementation of Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters of trade agreements and guidance to EU delegations on implementing Fair Trade projects in EU partner countries
  • The promotion of Fair Trade initiatives through EU external action policies
  • The promotion of Fair Trade initiatives as a way to address the root causes of child labour and support gender rights and equality
  • Reporting mechanisms

In his Keynote Speech, Executive Vice-president Dombrovskis welcomed the proposals in this shadow section as “very much in line with the Commission’s sustainability agenda.” He went on to describe the huge success of the public consultation on the trade policy review with more than 400 contributions from the European Parliament, Member States, stakeholders, and civil society. He then went on to highlight some key EU policies and initiatives that aim to contribute to fairer and ethical EU Trade practices, while also acknowledging that: “we must always aim to do better.”

The event was also an opportunity to present some concrete Fair Trade actions and constructive feedback from the ground, through interventions from Simon Chrisander, Deputy Mayor of the City of Malmö, winner of the 2020 EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award, and Mary Kinyua, Chair of Fairtrade Africa. Ms. Kinyua’s intervention was a reminder of the centrality of producers and workers to the Fair Trade movement, stressing that: “improving the livelihood of our producers is the key driver of our forces.”

Finally, the floor was given to MEPs who wished to delve deeper into some particular aspects of the Fair Trade ‘Shadow Section.’ They also drew the Executive Vice-presidents’ attention to the interconnected challenges and opportunities that lie ahead- including the upcoming human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) legislation.

Bernd Lange wrapped up the breakfast by inviting MEPs to join the informal cross-party Fair Trade Working Group.