Magazine article International Trade Forum

Trade, Investment, Development: The EU Perspective on Voluntary Assurance Schemes

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Trade, Investment, Development: The EU Perspective on Voluntary Assurance Schemes

Article excerpt

Sustainable development is at the core of European Union (EU) action both at home and around the word. This is a principle enshrined in the provisions of the EU Treaty and an objective guiding all of our different policies--whether we are working on the internal market, on our relations with partner countries or on global matters.

Trade and investment policy is certainly part of this picture. We want to make the most of the opportunities presented by the tools we develop and implement to support free and fair trade to foster sustainable development within the EU, in our partner countries and the wider world.

PUBLIC POLICIES FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH

This means designing public policies that ensure that economic growth brought by increased trade and investment goes hand in hand with social justice, high labour standards and sustainable environmental practices. We also need to integrate in our action the awareness that trade and investment practices favouring sustainable development arise, not only from government action, but from a shift in the marketplace towards more sustainable products.

In this context, voluntary non-governmental sustainability assurance schemes--such as fair and ethical trade schemes--can be effective in fostering sustainable and inclusive growth by promoting the production, trade, and consumption of sustainable products. They are led by non-governmental actors and bring them toghether:

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* for producers, participation can be an effective means to differentiate their product and gain price premiums,

* for traders, these initiatives provide a way to integrate societal developments in their business strategies,

* for consumers, they support informed purchasing decisions.

The EU takes the view that a key benefit of non-governmental sustainability schemes rests in the fact they are a market mechanism developed by stakeholders. Still, this does not mean that policymakers cannot be involved: public authorities can also have a role to play in promoting these initiatives and the EU is engaged in doing so.

Focus on this topic is not new. The European Commission issued its first communication on fair-trade schemes in 1999 and followed up on it through both dedicated approaches (*) and as part of its broader trade policy strategy (**).

The EU is now working on renewing its trade and investment strategy to make it relevant to tackling new economic realities. …

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