Brexit: Fairtrade and Traidcraft call on UK Government to change trade for good

Brexit infographic

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

A new report Brexit: Let’s change trade for good’  launching on 6 March, during Fairtrade Fortnight 2017, 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.

EU measures currently mean products the UK imports 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 many people that produce some of the UK’s favourite products, be it coffee, sugar or bananas.

Fairtrade Foundation and Traidcraft urge 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.

Speaking ahead of the report’s launch, the Fairtrade Foundation’s CEO Michael Gidney also 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.

Michael Gidney, CEO, Fairtrade Foundation, said;

"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 in to, 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."

 

Robin Roth, CEO of Traidcraft said:

“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 themselves 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.”

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 agreeing with the importance of fair prices, wages, and sustainable practices for farmers and workers.

We’re now calling on the UK Government to act; 2017 could be the time when we change trade for good.

The report’s 5 recommendations asks the government to; 

  • 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.
  • Notes to Editors

    For more information, images and interviews, please contact the Fairtrade Foundation press office susannah.henty@fairtrade.org.uk 020 7440 8597, Mobile: +44 (0)7766 504947

    The report is part of an ongoing campaign being led by the Fairtrade Foundation and Traidcraft, and supported by other charities. 

    Find out more about this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight 2017, the Fairtrade Foundation’s 23rd annual campaign ‘Don’t Feed Exploitation’ 

    About Fairtrade Foundation

    -       The FAIRTRADE Mark on products 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, confectionery, muesli, cereal bars, ice-cream, flowers, sports balls, sugar body scrub and cotton products including clothing, homeware, cotton wool, olive oil, gold, silver and platinum.

    -       Awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark continues to be high in 2015, at a level of 93%.

    About Traidcraft

  • Traidcraft plc is the UK’s leading fair trade business, offering the best of fair trade. The company has spent more than three decades seeking out and supporting the most vulnerable and marginalised farmers and artisans across the developing world.
  • Linked charity Traidcraft Exchange conducts research and monitors developments in trade and business practice, while advocating for better trade policies and campaigning for change.
  • For more information on the campaign visit www.traidcraft.co.uk/brexit-trade-campaign
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