In the raging debate over the impacts of globalization, there is widespread concern that freer trade widens the divide between the rich and the poor throughout the world. However, trade is unavoidable and has been a necessary phenomenon since time immemorial. With respect to this concern, fairness in trade would correspond to a narrowing of the income gaps between countries and between peoples. It is based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Against this back drop Fair Trade Forum India conducted two successful seminars at India Social Forum on the 10th and 12th of November, 2006.
The theme for the seminar on the 10th was Fair Trade Alternatives: Scope and Relevance.
Over 90 men and women from across the country attended the seminar. Mr. Dinesh Abrol (NISTAD) chaired the session. The meeting had other eminent speakers like Mr. Samir Ray from SILENCE and Prof. Shyam S. Sharma from Fair Trade Forum India. The deliberations centered around the relevance of trade practices to be fair and how fair trade can play a major role in the socio economic development of the marginalized section of the population. There were discussions on how to overcome barriers to fair trade adhering to trade standards and policies. Most importantly, producers shared their first hand experiences on problems associated with trading and gave their expressed their desire to learn ways and means to overcome trade barriers. The seminar was fruitful in improving understanding on Fair Trade related issues and how fair trade complements normal trade.
The theme for the seminar on the 12th was Fair Trade Policy, Advocacy and Practice.
There were over 100 participants from all over the country. The Seminar was graced by several eminent speakers like Mr. Narinder Kumar (Pairvi), Mr. Samir Ray (Silence), Mr. Linu Mathew Philip (OXFAM), Mr. Sundaram (Indus Tree Craft Foundation), Mr. Anthony Das (CASA), Ms Seema (Scope Plus), Mr Vijaya Rai (Unnayan_Sanstha), Mr. Debasish Mohanta (VHAI) and Prof. Shyam S. Sharma (FTFI).
The seminar addressed questions like whether more synergy between policy and practice of fair trade in India is possible in the Indian context and whether non tariff barriers area are a reality to be faced or a mere unjust policy which can be changed in future. It deliberated on the notions that fair trade has to be understood as collection of two important aspects viz. efforts to realize just and fair trade policies at national and international level and people to people initiatives to pass on the benefits of trade to the neediest amongst the grass roots. Concern was raised that social/fair values are not directly under the purview of WTO negotiations and policies. Hence any true efforts to realize fair trade would essentially consist of the Fair Trade Alternatives and the Fair Trade Standards promoted by it.
The seminar highlighted the fact that non tariff barriers can be addressed through collective actions and the impact of policies on people and how people to people initiative can be crucial to make trade fair. Speakers deliberated in the context of broader international trade policies and how far India has progressed with its planning process with respect to trade keeping in mind the developmental needs of the marginalized, transparency and accountability while formulating five year plans. There were further discussions on the strategies, tactics and approach to make fair trade coexist with free trade and simultaneously become a stronger corrective force.
About Fair Trade Forum- India
Registered as a national NGO, FTF-I is an alliance organized for networking and facilitating the cause of the Indian fair trade initiatives. Presently, it is working with more than 60000 producers including artisans and farmers through its 43 member organizations in partnership with international organizations like HIVOS. The member organizations are into handicrafts and food products. FTF-I is a member of International Fair Trade Association (IFAT) and Asia Fair Trade Forum (AFTF).
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