Fairtrade International takes step to move back in on the US market

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fair trade

Fairtrade International, which until now has remained a predominantly European operation, has taken concrete steps to re-launch operations in the United States.

The organisation has made the move in an effort to fill the gap left in that market for fairtrade products such as foods and cosmetics, following the departure of Fair Trade USA from the international fairtrade community.

Fairtrade International says it expects to announce that it has established its own legal presences in the USA sometime this month, from which time it will officially use the international Fairtrade market to market products in the country.

It says it will work with Fairtrade stakeholders to design and organise structure that will reflect the needs of the US market through the establishment of a consultative panel that will include fair trade businesses, consumers, consumer organisations and other stakeholders.

Fairtrade Canada manning the fort

During the transitional period, the organisation says it will partner with Fairtrade Canada, while the operating model is being established, while Fairtrade Canada will assist companies with official enquiries about the US fair trade market during this time.

“Many of those who took part in our dialogue process voiced that Fair Trade is about more than premium or prices, it’s philosophical. It’s about making a difference in producers’ lives,”​ said Esther Guluma, Fairtrade International board chair.

“Volume of product sold does not necessarily equal producer impact and we will work to ensure that growth of the system is consistent with greater producer impact and involvement.”

Fair Trade USA decides to go its own way

Fair Trade USA chose to leave Fairtrade International back in September 2011, stating its belief that it would be able to form fair trade partners and grow the fair trade industry in the country if it operated as an independent organisation.

The efforts to encourage fair trade have met with only limited success in the US, with coffee proving to be the most popular product. The number of Fair trade cosmetics available in the country have thus far been relatively small, especially compared to the more established European market.

Fair Trade USA chief executive Paul Rice has said that in the light of the split he hopes to diversify the types of fair trade products available in the US, and is aiming to double the value of sales there by 2015.

The new strategy, called Fair Trade For All, aims to make the decision-making strategy simpler and easier, creating a more business-friendly approach to the fair trade process in the US, while returning more to farmers and workers in developing countries.

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