Brexit ‘could make or break farmers’ – now’s the time to change trade for good

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

Home » Fair trade post-Brexit

Published: 14 March 2017

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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New figures show Brexit could make or break farmers from some of the poorest countries by creating fairer trade – or result in at least £1 billion in extra taxes, the Fairtrade Foundation and Traidcraft have warned.

A new report, ‘Brexit: Let’s change trade for good’, reveals the potential untold human cost behind Brexit for millions of people around the world. However the report reveals there is also an unprecedented opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in fairer trade.

‘We’ve calculated that new taxes on imports from the world’s poorest countries could amount to around £1 billion if the government fails to act. This could mean rising costs for UK consumers on things like fresh fruit, coffee and garments – or more likely, hit the income and working conditions of already poor and vulnerable producers and workers in developing countries.

‘The government has an opportunity to give itself a quick win by offering immediate one-way market access to imports from developing countries. This would ensure uninterrupted supply for UK consumers, and jobs and income for producers in some of the world’s poorest countries.’

ROBIN ROTH
CEO of Traidcraft

Unfair competition?

EU measures currently mean products imported to the UK from the poorest countries are exempt from charges or taxes. But if equivalent rules aren’t put in place by our government, 116 countries stand to lose out. This would seriously harm the incomes of the people who produce some of the UK’s favourite products, from coffee and sugar to bananas.

Fairtrade Foundation and Traidcraft are urging the government to offer the poorest countries preferential, non-reciprocal access to the UK market, warning that those countries could face unfair competition if politicians sign free trade agreements with wealthy competitors.

Living on the edge

The Fairtrade Foundation’s CEO Michael Gidney highlighted the opportunities that could emerge for the UK and developing countries if trade policies are written in a way that benefits poor communities, for example making it easier for them to export more valuable products.

‘Many farming communities are already living on the edge, struggling with the impact of exploitation brought on by low prices for their produce. Brexit could make or break the future for these farmers and could mean the difference between working their way out of, or way back into, poverty.

‘This government has repeatedly said it wants new trade deals to be fair for all. We need action to match that ambition: if the UK is to become a great, global trading nation we must make sure we change trade for good. We’re calling on the government to deliver on its promises and make this tumultuous time one of hope and opportunity, instead of greater poverty and misery for some of the world’s poorest farmers.’

MICHAEL GIDNEY
CEO, Fairtrade Foundation

Changing trade

The government’s ambition to become ‘a great global trading nation’ is a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver truly fair trade which backs the UK’s promises to end poverty and inequality.

Last month, in a parliamentary debate, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox MP welcomed the Fairtrade Foundation and Traidcraft’s new campaign and agreed with the importance of fair prices, wages, and sustainable practices for farmers and workers.

The UK governments now being encouraged to act to make 2017 the year when trade is changed for good.

Report recommendations to government

  • Do no harm: Poor people in economically vulnerable countries must not find themselves paying new import duties on sales to the UK
  • Act quickly: Reassure economically vulnerable countries with an immediate offer of non-reciprocal preferential access to the UK market
  • Look ahead: Study the impact of planned trade deals with wealthier countries carefully to make sure that they don’t undermine poorer countries
  • Go further: Make it easier for developing countries to sell higher value products to the UK, and put in place trade policies to tackle poverty in line with the UK promise to deliver the SDGs
  • Use aid and investment well: Make sure that UK aid and investment helps the poor and vulnerable to benefit from trade

The Fairtrade Mark

The Fairtrade Mark is an independent consumer label that appears on products to show that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal from trade. Today, more than 1.65 million people – farmers and workers – across more than 76 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.

Over 5,000 products have been licensed to carry the Fairtrade Mark in the UK including coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, dried fruit, juices, smoothies, biscuits, cakes & snacks, honey, jams & preserves, chutney, rice, quinoa, herbs & spices, seeds, nuts, wines, ales, rum, muesli, cereal bars, ice cream, flowers, sports balls, homeware, cotton wool, olive oil, gold, silver and platinum.

Click here to read the full report, ‘Brexit: Let’s change trade for good’.

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