Labour/Co-op MP Preet Kaur Gill, the shadow minister for international development, has called on the government to consider the needs of Fairtrade producers when it draws up its post-Brexit trade deals.
She warns that without such commitments, “future trade agreements threaten to open countries up to more exploitation”.
Ms Gill, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, paid tribute to the Fairtrade movement for its annual Fairtrade Fortnight celebration (14 Feb – 8 Mar). She said: “I’ve seen what a difference Fairtrade can make to some of the world’s poorest people. When we are thinking about trade, these are the people we should be ensuring it protects and works for rather than wilting to corporate interests.”
As part of the post-Brexit process, the government is negotiating future free trade agreements for the UK and Ms Gill is concerned this will weaken its efforts on trade justice.
She said: “Instead of trade deals that require deregulation or weaken the state, we could take this opportunity to ensure all future trade deals act as positive incentives to tackle entrenched poverty and foster equality.
“The Fairtrade movement shows us that trade can have a positive impact for the world’s poorest if it is done right. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look likely.
“We know that the secretary of state has had no meetings over the last year with any organisations focusing on trade justice and her department has not explicitly committed itself to ensuring trade deals it negotiates will defend and support social and environmental protections.”
And she warned that leaving the EU makes the government less accountable when it comes to trade policy.
“Compared to the options we had as an EU member state, the UK’s options for genuine parliamentary scrutiny are limited and weak,” she warned. “Our Members of the European Parliament had access to the negotiating texts, were able to raise concerns and had the right to veto agreements. Members of the UK Parliament are not guaranteed any of those things.
“I have asked a series of questions to ministers about this but so far, the Government has been unwilling to firmly commit to ensuring adequate in-depth, meaningful parliamentary and public scrutiny.
“Meanwhile the Department for International Development (DFID), which has an express aim of reducing poverty, is under continued threat of merger or closure when it should instead be playing a leading role in ensuring any future trade deals do not impact negatively on development.”