Fair trade a priority among EU consumers

NDO/VNA – Fair trade is now one of the most important concerns for European Union (EU) consumers, along with concerns for sustainable development, a Ministry of Trade and Industry official said.

Tran Ngoc Quan, Deputy Director General of the European Market Department, Ministry of Trade and Industry, made the observation at the policy dialogue ‘Promoting fair trade in Vietnam’ in Hanoi on May 12.

The dialogue was held by the Vietnam Rural Industries Research and Development Institute, in collaboration with Vietnam Tea Association, Vietnam Cocoa – Coffee Association and Vietnam Handicraft Exporters’ Association.

“The FTA between Vietnam and the EU has brought about big advantages for the market and Vietnamese enterprises when exporting to the EU market,” he said.

“The EU is committed to economic development while making opportunities for future generations. As such, in the EU member states, especially in more developed countries, consumers have higher requirements for products and services,” Quan highlighted, adding that “the market requirement is strict, including requirements for producers for in regards to the environment and society.”

If Vietnamese enterprises actively sought voluntary labels such as ecolabel, social responsibility and fair trade, it will give EU consumers more confidence when selecting Vietnamese products, he added.

According to EU statistics, EU revenue of fair trade products has increased steadily, especially for coffee, tea and handicrafts.

Fair trade represents 1.5 million producers and labour in 1,200 manufacturers in 74 countries, according to Nguyen Bao Thoa, director of the ‘Promoting fair trade in Vietnam’ project.

Speaking at the dialogue, Thoa said that for producers and labour, fair trade helped them by creating a fair and stable price for their products, as well as provided welfare funds to re-invest into their community, empowerment to voice their opinions in decision making processes, and improvement in working and living conditions based on the establishment of production, in addition, it provided a responsible consumption model.

For businesses, fair trade is a global certification providing easier recognition and which meets market demands, prices of goods according to fair trade criteria, improves organisational structures, and is part of a global market, in addition to exchanging opportunities to learn and voice opinions on fair trade itself.

Consumers of fair trade buy products according to values and rules of fair trade, selecting products, with clear origins, showing producers’ responsibility to the economy, society and environment.

Fair Trade was a tool for delivering sustainable development, Christine Gent, director of World Fair Trade Organisation in Asian region, said.

Fair Trade supports sustainable rural livelihoods and helps to stem the tide of urban migration, she added.

However in Vietnam, fair trade is relatively new and is yet to become common practice, Thoa said.A coffee grower in Dak Lak province said at the meeting that as soon as his co-operative applied fair trade practices, it saw improvements. “The quality of coffee was enhanced, while the awareness of social responsibility of both planters and buyers was increased,” he said.

However, as the province is still weak in financial capacity, he proposed to organisations that they support the co-operative with a fee to build a trade promotion brand, and hoped the Government would lend support through investment funds for materials.

A representative of the handicraft sector also spoke highly of the advantages of fair trade in exporting to foreign markets, especially the European Union (EU) market. She also recommended to the State that they form policies to attract more companies and enterprises taking part in fair trade activities to further promote fair trade in the country.

The project ‘Promoting fair trade in Vietnam’ is funded by EU with the total budget of more than EUR504,000 (US$574,000) over a period of 35 months from June 2014 to May 2017.

The project aims to develop and increase fair trade businesses in Vietnam to meet all requirements of the EU market.