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The UK has a unique opportunity to lead the world in making trade work for people and the planet

Today Fairtrade joined several NGOs, including CAFOD, Christian Aid and WWF to sign an open letter to Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss calling for trade deals to be aligned to environmental goals and to go further in reducing carbon emissions.

Dear Secretary of State,

The Conservative manifesto included a welcome promise to ensure trade negotiations do not compromise the UK’s domestic environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. Now is the time to make that promise a reality – but also to go further. It is time to cut the UK’s wider environmental footprint, and to put our international commitments to protect our environment, tackle the climate emergency and promote sustainable development at the heart of trade policy.

The UK has a unique opportunity to lead the world in making trade work for people and the planet. At the same time as negotiating new trade deals for the first time in nearly fifty years, the UK will host the next international climate conference, COP26, as well as the 2021 G7 summit. Aligning these agendas in 2020 will demonstrate how we intend to contribute to a green global recovery that accelerates delivery against the Sustainable Development Goals.

We know that UK trade deals will impact on nature and the climate. They could severely limit our ability to meet climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, to support a fair transition to a resilient economy, to maintain and improve environmental, animal welfare and food standards, and to ensure the global protection of forests. 

We can do things better. The UK can ensure a positive impact by legislating to fully align trade policy with our climate, environment and sustainable development commitments. The current Trade Bill – or a new future-focused Trade Bill – provides the ideal vehicle to set out the UK’s overarching trade policy and guide the prioritisation of negotiations and the content of trade deals. 

Currently, neither civil society nor our elected representatives have adequate means to hold the Government to account for the trade deals it strikes. We must ensure the UK has a scrutiny process for trade that is at least as good as the US and EU. The government should, as a matter of urgency, introduce provisions to ensure that MPs have a say on negotiating mandates, maximum access to negotiating texts and a binding vote once a deal has been agreed. 

Time is running out: the Trade Bill provides a key opportunity to lay the foundations for gold-standard deals that support our climate, environment and sustainable development ambitions. We urge you to be bold in crafting a truly 21st-century, world-leading trade policy that responds to the challenges faced by our natural world. 

Yours sincerely,

Stephanie Draper, Chief Executive, Bond

Dr Michael Warhurst, Executive Director, CHEM Trust

Amanda Mukwashi, CEO, Christian Aid 

Christine Allen, Director, CAFOD

James Thornton, CEO, ClientEarth

Philip Lymbery, Global Chief Executive, Compassion in World Farming

Crispin Truman, CEO, CPRE The countryside charity

Nick Mabey, Chief Executive Officer, E3G

Dr. Louisa Cox, Director of Impact, Fairtrade Foundation

Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles, Co-CEO, Friends of the Earth

Shaun Spiers, Executive Director, Green Alliance

John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK

Jyoti Fernandes, Chair, Landworkers Alliance

Sandy Luk, Chief Executive Officer, Marine Conservation Society

Dr Keith Tyrell, Director, Pesticide Action Network UK

Christopher Price, Chief Executive Officer, Rare Breeds Survival Trust

Beccy Speight, CEO, RSPB

Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive, Sustain Food and Farming Alliance

Nigel Harris, Chief Executive, Tearfund

Charlotte Timson, Chief Executive, Traidcraft Exchange

James Robinson, Director of Conservation, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

Craig Bennett, CEO, The Wildlife Trusts

Lynne Stubbings, Chair, The Women’s Institute

Darren Moorcroft, CEO, Woodland Trust

Tanya Steele, CEO, WWF UK