For Immediate Release
August 6, 2003

Making Trade Fair
Businesses, farmers showcase Fair Trade solutions at upcoming WTO Ministerial in Cancun

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - When the World Trade Organization (WTO) convenes next month in Cancun, Mexico, world leaders will likely face another round of bitter criticism over their inability to address the needs of economically-impoverished developing nations. This time, beyond protesting the failures of the WTO, many civic, business and farming leaders will gather at the nearby International Fair Trade Fair, to promote “Fair Trade,” the rapidly growing, market-based alternative to ‘Free Trade.’ But will leaders buy the solution that Fair Trade is selling?

World leaders are under increasing public pressure to alleviate endemic hunger and rural poverty. According to Oxfam International, nearly 25 million coffee farmers in Latin America, Asia and Africa have seen prices fall by 70 percent in the last 5 years. Coffee farmers, like Mohammed Ali Indris in Ethiopia, had been selling their beans below the cost of production. By joining a Fair Trade cooperative, Indris is now guaranteed $1.26 per pound of coffee beans, about three times the current world price - enough to provide food, education and health care for his family.

“There is a real opportunity for the WTO and the U.S. government to incorporate Fair Trade principles in developing new trade rules," stated Mark Ritchie, President of the Minneapolis, MN-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), one of the organizations convening the International Fair Trade Fair just minutes away from the WTO meeting. “The Fair Trade movement has flourished largely because the WTO-driven, free trade model has failed to respond to the needs of poor countries,” he added.

And flourish it has. Fair Trade certified products, which guarantees fair wages to producers of coffee, chocolate, bananas and many other crafts and commodities is growing fast. International sales in 2002 for Fair Trade products topped $400 million, being sold in more than 50,000 supermarkets and 70,000 other stores and cafes. In the United States, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Green Mountain, Aveda and Dunkin’ Donuts are among the more than 200 companies to offer Fair Trade certified coffee.

Advocates see Fair Trade as a proven solution, benefiting farmers and rural communities, while meeting a growing consumer demand in the United States and abroad for high quality products that respect producers, their communities and the environment.

Some world leaders already agree. "Fair Trade in cocoa is increasing incomes and empowering local producers,” British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated in February 2003. “It is an inspiring example of the new partnership between developing countries and the developed world."

IATP will host three concurrent events at the WTO Cancun meeting - the International Fair Trade Fair, a Sustainable Trade Symposium, and the Fair Trade in the Americas Forum. Organizers hope that WTO ministers will stop by for a Fair Trade coffee break, and learn first-hand how Fair Trade is keeping communities alive during the two-year record low in world market coffee prices. Artisans and farmers from twenty countries, displaying everything from Brazil nuts to textiles, will provide shopping and tasting opportunities to delegates and their families.

Developed in the Netherlands in the late 1980’s, Fair Trade certification began in response to plummeting prices in the world coffee market. Through Fair Trade, producers sell directly to importers, bypassing various intermediaries who often take the lion’s share of the profits. Since then, an international Fair Trade certification system has been established that sets and monitors social and environmental criteria, growing to certify a dozen commodities and over one hundred related products. To date, more than $30 million has been paid directly to farmers from U.S. sales alone.

Fair Trade sales grew by an average of 30 percent globally, and by 50 percent in the United States in 2002, supported by a growing group of conscientious U.S. consumers who are willing to spend money to support their values and convictions. In a 2002 Cone/Roper poll, 81 percent of U.S. consumers said they are likely to switch brands to help support a cause when price and quality are equal, and 92 percent have a more positive image of companies and products that support causes.

“We don’t expect Fair Trade to solve all development problems,” said Ritchie. “But we think WTO ministers are ready for positive solutions.”

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For more information, background and digital photos on IATP and their Fair Trade programs in Cancun, please visit or contact:

  • Stephenie Hendricks at (415) 258-9151,
  • Michael Straus, (415) 777-1170, (415) 519-8343 (cell),