For Immediate Release
September 10, 2003

Nobel Laureate, Ministers Gather to Support Fair Trade

CANCUN, MEXICO - High-ranking diplomats attending the 5th Ministerial meeting of the WTO gathered today at the world’s first International Fair Trade Fair to applaud the rapidly growing “Fair Trade” movement, a market-based alternative to ‘Free Trade’ which provides millions of farmers in economically-impoverished developing nations with a living wage.

“Mexico is proud to host the WTO and the world’s first international Fair Trade Fair,” stated Mexican Foreign Minister Dr. Luis Ernesto Derbez in a statement released earlier today.

Joining Minister Derbez were Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala, Canadian Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew, South African Minister Dr. Ben Ngubane, German Minister for Consumer Protection, Food Safety & Ag, Renate Kuenast and Swiss Ambassador Matthias Meyer. Farmers from more than 20 nations met with the Ministers to discuss how Fair Trade has influenced economic development in their communities.

World leaders have been under increasing public pressure to reform international rules of trade in order 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.

Started in the late 1980s, Fair Trade programs respond to plummeting prices in commodity markets, including coffee, tea and cocoa. By allowing producers to sell directly to importers, farmers bypass various intermediaries who often take the lion’s share of the profits. Fair Trade products now include sugar, mescal and even soccer balls.

“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.

International sales in 2002 for Fair Trade products topped $400 million, generating an estimated US$30 million of additional income for producers and workers. More than 50,000 supermarkets and 70,000 other stores and cafes selling Fair Trade products. Austria, France and Norway are now the fastest growing fair trade markets overall, with sales volume among these countries increasing by more than 100 percent between 2001 and 2002.

“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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Background Information: Fair Trade Expo: www.fairtradeexpo.org and Digital Press Room at www.strauscom.com/cancun. Media Contacts: In Mexico, Michael Straus: 044-998-107-2813, michael@strauscom.com, Kari Hamerschlag: 044-998-107-2823.

In the USA, contact Stephenie Hendricks, 415-258-9151, stephenie@strauscom.com.