HC Deb 25 March 2004 vol 419 cc1048-9
5. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab)

What action her Department is taking in relation to the objectives of the Fairtrade movement, with particular reference to Belize. [163437]

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Mr. Mike O'Brien)

The Government are committed to supporting the objectives of the Fairtrade movement. Fairtrade fortnight was a great success. Some 6,000 events took place across the UK raising awareness of the issue. In broader terms, the Government have provided £500,000 to assist the Fairtrade objectives.

As to Belize, the Government have provided £225,000 to support cocoa farmers from the Toledo region, one of the poorest areas of the country. It has enabled the Toledo cocoa growers association to expand the production of its cocoa products and increase its exports overseas.

Mr. Dalyell

Deeply impressed as I have been by inaugural meetings of small groups such as the one in the Linlithgow borough or larger groups such as the one at the university of Edinburgh, I still want to ask what the Department of Trade and Industry can do to enlarge the Fairtrade market. I am grateful to the Minister for what he said about Belize.

Mr. O'Brien

Fairtrade is an enormously important way of enabling disadvantaged producer groups in developing countries to receive a minimum price above that offered by mainstream markets. The price includes a premium to be used for community development projects. We have been trying to work with the Fairtrade movement to increase awareness of the benefits that that brings. Stimulating awareness of the wider problems is also important.

We can welcome the fact that Fairtrade coffee producers have about 8 per cent. of the market; but frankly, if we really want to resolve the trading problems of developing countries, the Doha development agenda is crucial. Fairtrade is an important initiative: we strongly support it and have invested some resources in it, but the most effective way of helping developing countries must be through the World Trade Organisation and proper international agreements.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD)

Is Belize one of the countries covered by the extraordinary suggestion by the European Trade Commissioner that import controls should be imposed on countries that he says have different cultural values? When such nonsensical protectionist stuff comes out of the European Commission, why do the Government not condemn it?

Mr. O'Brien

We have always made it clear that we want markets to be open and fair. Throughout the WTO process and the Doha development agenda, Pascal Lamy has always made it clear that the aim is to achieve an agreement that progressively opens markets, encourages trade and lifts people out poverty. Both he and the British Government have made it very clear that we will promote those open markets.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab)

My hon. Friend will know that there is widespread public support for the Government's policy in respect of Doha, but he will recognise also that Belize and many other countries benefit from fair trade. Should we not congratulate the co-operative movement, which has played such a key part in this country in promoting Fairtrade products?

Mr. O'Brien

I entirely agree. We welcome the Coop's recently announced initiative to double the size of its range of Fairtrade products by the end of 2004. That is a great initiative, and the Co-op is leading the way. We hope that other supermarket chains and businesses will follow suit.