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World needs fairer and more sustainable trade: UNCTAD

Sep '19
Though globalisation has fallen from glory and some leaders have embraced protectionist policies, discussions about whether we need more or less trade are misplaced, a top United National Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) official said. In terms of income inequality, trade growth over the past four decades has been both a blessing and a bane, she said.

“What the world truly needs is not less trade, but more fair trade,” deputy secretary general Isabelle Durant said on September 17 at the International Fair Trade Summit in Lima.

A study by researchers from Oxford University and the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics has shown that ‘relative’ income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, decreased from 0.74 1975 to 0.63 in 2010.

But during the same period ‘absolute’ income inequality increased, meaning that as the divide between nations shrunk, the gap between rich and poor within most countries widened., she said.

UNCTAD and the fair trade movement share a common conviction that the gains from trade should lead to prosperity for all, according to a press release from the UN body.

“In a normal business, 70 per cent of the profits go to the shareholders. In 90 per cent of our businesses, zero per cent goes to the shareholders. This is another economic model altogether,” World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) chief Enrich Sahan said.

Labels like Fairtrade and the associated standards have the power to push production and consumption patterns towards more sustainable pathways. But to truly rewrite the rules of trade, Durant said, the movement must innovate.

UNCTAD believes partnerships can help improve coherence between the plethora of sustainability standards and make them more accessible, she added.

This belief led the organization to establish in 2012 the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) with other UN agencies. UNCTAD’s strong belief in partnerships was also behind the decision in October 2018 to join forces with WFTO to improve the living and working conditions of artisans, workers and smallholder farmers and producers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding during the previous International Fair Trade Summit held in Madrid in 2018. (DS)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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