The aim of the own-initiative opinion, in the European Year for Development (2015), is to help highlight the role of fair trade in general, and the contribution of local and regional fair-trade initiatives in the EU in particular, in global development.
Fair trade touches on key aspects of a self-awareness of how the EU's economic activities can and should be run in a global context. According to Article 3(5) TEU, the EU shall "contribute to [...] the sustainable development of the Earth, [...] free and fair trade, [and] eradication of poverty" in its relations with the wider world. The aim of the own-initiative opinion is to translate these commitments into a rigorous concept of fair trade within a coherent overall policy framework, from the perspective of local and regional authorities. It will thus call for an EU strategy to promote fair trade at local level.
The opinion calls for a reference to Fair Trade as a means of development support in a future Communication on the EU's trade agenda.
The opinion also underlines the need to exchange experiences and good practices of local/ regional support for fair trade initiatives, and asks the Commission to help design and disseminate the necessary tools for these exchanges
The opinion suggests the creation of a European City / Region of Fair Trade award, as a means to raise awareness and incentivise local and regional authorities to showcase their activities in this area.
The Trade for all paper published by the EC underlines that the EU should pursue a policy that benefits society as a whole, putting a greater emphasis on sustainable development, human rights, tax evasion, consumer protection, and responsible and fair trade. It notes also the lack of information about access to fair trade schemes for both producers and EU consumers.
The communication also states that the Commission will promote fair trade and address fair and ethical trade more systematically, develop awareness-raising activities in the EU, in particular working with local authorities in the EU via the possible launch of an ‘EU City for Fair and Ethical Trade’ award. The CoR opinion proposed the creation of a 'European Fair Trade City/Region'. Such an EU recognition would give European sub-national authorities a greater incentive to promote fair trade and would help to disseminate examples and raise the level of awareness on fair trade in UE's cities and regions
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- is looking forward to the recently announced Communication on Trade and calls on the Commission to make use of this opportunity to outline the concrete measures which it envisages to move towards a coherent framework for EU fair trade;
- emphasises that such a strategy should promote the active involvement in fair trade of local and regional authorities, as well as other key players such as the European Parliament, the European External Action Service and the European Economic and Social Committee. To this end, the possibility of setting up an inter-institutional working group might be considered, in order to coordinate measures on fair trade and guarantee their consistency and to ensure that EU initiatives and policies in this area are mutually complementary;
- welcomes the EU's revised public procurement directives, which make it possible to include fair-trade criteria in public contracts. It is now easier for contracting authorities to rely on voluntary labelling and certification systems so that sustainable development considerations can be taken into account in the public procurement system;
- calls on the Commission to draw up practical guidelines that provide a real-world explanation of fair trade, alongside other social criteria, in the public procurement system, thus promoting these criteria;
- suggests that Member States include in their legal order the possibility of incorporating criteria for positive discrimination towards fair trade products in public procurement;
- believes that local and regional authorities can encourage businesses in their own region to incorporate fair-trade and corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles into their internal business practices.