The Prime Minister says trade is the way to tackle global poverty, but his government supports trade policy that is pushing people into poverty.
This Autumn David Cameron signed the UK up to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a global agreement that puts trade at the heart of its toolkit for eradicating poverty worldwide by 2030. It provides him with a unique opportunity to get his government’s trade policy working better and harder to lift billions out of poverty.
But the rhetoric has to match the reality. Otherwise it’s a case of giving with one hand and taking with the other.
The interests and livelihoods of many Fairtrade farmers and workers, and many more outside of Fairtrade, continue to be undermined by unfair subsidies, unreasonable regulations, self-interested trade tariffs and one-sided trade deals – supported by the UK government. These deals prop up British and European interests, but they often do little for – and sometimes actively harm – poor farmers and workers. They block them from building up their businesses, force them out of markets and leave them unable to sell their produce.
These deals and decisions impact on millions of farmers and workers worldwide. When trade policy goes wrong it doesn’t just seriously hinder vulnerable producers from accessing markets, it can reverse our progress made in reducing poverty too.
The Department for International Development (DFID) has a strong track record of putting poor farmers and workers first. Aid spending has been protected, and much of DFID’s efforts seek to support trade as a means to tackle poverty.
But other government departments are not always aligned with them. This is a problem as it isn’t just DFID’s actions and policies that have an impact on international development. The decisions and policies of other government departments also have a significant impact on the poorest around the world. And they’re not putting them first.
That’s why we’ve set out a five-point agenda for trade policy coherence, calling for David Cameron to show his hand on trade and lead a new joined-up approach from the UK government that puts farmers and workers first.