The "Fair Trade Nation": Market-Oriented Development in Devolved European Regions
Fisher, Eleanor, Human Organization
Scholars have largely ignored the roles played by government and public sector institutions in the fair trade movement. This article addresses the knowledge gap through examining government involvement in fair trade networks in the context of European devolution and the localization of international development action. Proposing a relational view of fair trade networks, and considering the Fair Trade Nation as a social category for development, it highlights how power sources outside the centralized nation-state permit a political community to associate itself with fair trade. Research from Wales demonstrates that government acts in a leadership role rather than as regulator, conferring political voice and finance while enhancing its international credentials and contributing to the politics of nation-building. Our conclusion is cautious; campaigners celebrate political commitment to fair trade embodied within the category of the Fair Trade Nation, but evidence suggests that government reliance on the market as a vehicle for decentralized development action is limited by how the Fair Trade Nation is currently executed.
Key words: fair trade, government, Europe, devolution, development anthropology
In 2006, the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland, devolved regions of the United Kingdom, announced a campaign to win fair trade status for their nations at the first anniversary of the Gleneagles Summit for the Group of Eight (G-8) heads of the powerful industrial nations. At this Summit, world poverty had been top of the agenda; half a million people formed a human chain to "make poverty history" and a final communiqué acknowledged the success of the global fair trade movement (Fairtrade Foundation 2006). ' The symbolism of the announcement is striking, regional leaders from the United Kingdom portraying their countries' contributions to global poverty reduction as "Fair Trade Nations" (FTNs), linking new iterations of regional identity, civic value, and nationalism to fair trade. Two years later, Wales was declared the world's first FTN (BBC 2008a/b).
International action by European regional (sub-state) governments is important to identity formation, stateless nation-building, and goals of independence (Royles 2010). This is despite powers over international development remaining the preserve of the nation-state in many European countries. Thus, in regional contexts, instead of governmentto-government development aid, emphasis is placed on mutuality in international relations, partnership with civil society, and place or institution-based links between the global north and south (Smith n.d.). Fair trade, with its potential for poverty reduction, partnership, and closer producer-consumer linkages, is seen as an ideal vehicle for this decentralized development action, as demonstrated by European regional and local government fair trade initiatives that have support from the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, and European fair trade advocacy networks.2
Reflecting wider European processes, regional devolution in the United Kingdom in the 1990s created political space for the emergence of the FTN in the 2000s.3 United Kingdom devolution is "asymmetrical," being fundamentally different and with divergent timescales in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales (Leeke, Sear, and Gay 2003). However, the 1997 election of a new national government, the Labour Party, stimulated devolution processes. The implications for configuration of responsibilities between central and regional governments differed: following decades of violence, Northern Irish devolution was bound to peacemaking; while devolution was strongest in Scotland, with its powerful nationalist party and greater economic strength, the new Scottish Parliament being identified as a claim of right for a historic nation. In contrast, devolution was weakest in Wales, with its small population of three million, limited economic competitiveness, and struggles to be given political importance. …