Challenge for Europe

A World in Crisis

Certain malfunctions are fundamental: the process of public deregulation, with the disengagement of states and the quasi-religious belief in the regulatory virtues of the market; the decoupling of the financial sphere from the real economy, with an explosion in uncontrolled speculation; the concentration of global economic and financial power in a handful of capitalist societies dominated by investment in the most profitable research; the pretentiousness of transforming all goods and services into marketable merchandise and/or subsequent speculation on these markets (health, education, research, housing, seeds, earth, water, plants, money, financial derivatives, etc.); and the subordination of the rights of people and communities – along with the preservation of natural resources – to the demand for profitability and growth.

The global crisis is taking place while our societies are facing new processes of transformation and upheaval, whether it be on the case of sciences (nanotechnologies, manipulation of life), the economy (neo-liberal globalization, financialization of the economy, imbalances, inequalities), communication (digital revolution, real-time, disconnection), the environment (exhaustion of resources, threats to biodiversity), the social (breaking social ties, poverty, inequality, exclusion) or politics (retreat of the nation-state in multilateral organizations, concentration of wealth and power, growing influence of the media, new forms of governance).

Confronted with the depth of these transformations and of the insecurities we are experiencing, dominant economic thought responds that we need to further deepen the capitalist financial model of production and consumption. The last decisions of the G20 in April 2009 demonstrate the incapacity of our political leaders to think beyond the current socio-economic model.

Commerce According the WTO? Guilty!

After 30 years of deregulation under the guidance of the World Trade Organization international trade continues to organize itself according to a hegemonic model controlled by large transnational groups under the cover of liberalism and free trade. In reality, for the majority of producers in the world – notably for farmers in Africa, Latin America and Asia – working and living conditions do not stop deteriorating.

Through the discourse of equality of opportunity for everyone that accompanies the liberalization of trade, distortions and inequalities continue to benefit the developed countries, notably the United States and the European Union.

The falling tendency of agricultural prices, the monopolization of science and technology by industrial countries, the dismantling of systems of price regulation, unfair competition through export subsidies, protectionist measures targeting processed products and phytosanitary obligations, etc. With all of these examples, the alleged “free and informed competition” advocated by the WTO in international trade is rendered illusory.

Inspired almost exclusively by private economic interests, the European Union’s trade policy threatens living, working and environmental conditions of populations and territories, both in Europe and in the South. Through the “Global Europe” strategy, the European Commission hopes to ease access for European multinationals via the conclusion of multilateral, regional, and bilateral free trade agreements (like the Doha Round at the WTO). These agreements have, as their main objective, giving more access for European firms to markets and natural resources in the South. This same trade policy, followed for decades, has not aided in the development of these countries, nor did it succeed in avoiding, relocations, unemployment, rural desertification and the social inequalities in Europe.

It is therefore urgent to change the current paradigm in the name of sustainable development for Europe and the world. Economic solidarity and fair trade work to contribute to this reversal of logic.

Economic Solidarity

The entrepreneurs of a social, solidarity economy propose the democratization of the economy and the building of a social dynamic and sustainable economy. This dynamic is based on values of social utility, cooperation, solidarity and reciprocity, working towards human development and respect for the environment.

Entrepreneurs in the social, solidarity economy are interested in all activities which tend to respond to a real social need. Thus, we find economic solidarity initiatives to be quite different in their nature, but generally complementary to each other. These initiatives concretely advance pilot projects for human and environmental development in territories where they are introduced. Fair trade, solidarity finance, production and service cooperative, health insurance, local services, management of urban services by residents, networks of exchange and knowledge, self-production, sustainable development, organic stores, collective kitchens, inter-cultural women’s restaurants, solidarity tourism, creation of activities by the unemployed, etc, are some of the initiatives which are already spreading.

The Importance of Free Trade

With a view toward a social, solidarity economy, fair trade works as a tool for the sustainable development of regions in both industrial and developing countries. Initially advanced as a socio-economic innovation in the service of North-South solidarity, it is developing equally well in international and local trade. Thus, in this new conception of a tool for sustainable development, we seek to create a social alliance between the producers and consumers of a region around the following general practices and principles:

  • The centrality of a region, of its consumption needs and its production capacity. This includes a flexible equilibrium between internal and external commercial flows where the primary concern is food security.
  • Multiple and complimentary commercial approaches
  • Democratic management of businesses in a region with the participation of different organized actors: producers, consumers, public authorities, elected officials, technicians, associations, unions, businesses, etc. This democratic management allows for the negotiation and fixing of prices. It is equally effective in fairly distributing the value-added along different production chains.
  • Support and articulation in relation with other regional levels or domains of intervention: regional, national, European, international.
  • Responsibility and transparency on the part everyone involved in the production chain
  • Information, education and qualification of agro-ecological production techniques, trade mechanisms, markets, responsible consumption, etc.

Our Proposal for MEPs

  1. Support above all else systems of local exchange centered around sustainable regional development and managed democratically by regional actors: production on a human scale, short production chains, equilibrium between internal and external commercial flows, equitable distribution of value added between all actors in the supply chain, mixed regulation co-produced by civil society and public authorities at the local level, responsible consumption, education and qualification of actors, responsibility and transparency of actors.
  2. Promote the principle of subsidiarity, along with the principle of articulation with other domains that concern commercial exchanges (monopoly positions, monetary fluctuations, regulatory frameworks, phytosanitary norms, etc.)
  3. Propose the elimination of sources of distortion and inequalities in international trade with developing countries by targeting: the declining tendency of agricultural prices by promoting mixed regulation systems; the monopoly of science and technology by industrialized countries; unfair competition with export subsidies; protectionist measures on processed goods and phytosanitary obligations; etc.
  4. In particular, work to eradicate speculation on primary goods, beginning with food and energy products, by implementing mixed mechanisms of price stabilization, as well as removing these products from WTO negotiations.
  5. Promote the freezing of WTO negotiations (the Doha Round) until the two following conditions are met:

– An international and independent evaluation of the impact of WTO policies on the sustainable development of the most fragile countries

– The subordination of WTO decisions to international law: human rights, workers’ rights, environmental protection and biodiversity treaties

6. Promote the incorporation of the WTO into the United Nations system, the only legitimate way of regulating international commercial exchanges, by democratizing its functioning by incorporating representatives from organizations of producers, negotiators, consumers and NGOs defending human rights and the environment.

Read more about

This text is freely inspired by reading several works and documents, including:

“Quel commerce équitable pour demain – Pour une nouvelle gouvernance des échanges, » C. Gendron, A. Palma Torres, V. Bisaillon – ECLM e Ecocité, Paris-Montréal, 2009

« Commerce équitable et régulations publiques » A-F Taisne et A. Palma Torres, in « Action publique et économie solidaire. Une perspective international » J-L Laville et all., Eres, 2007

« L’appel aux états généraux de l’économie solidaire », MES-France, 2008

« Recommandations de la Commission d’experts au président de l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies sur la réforme du système monétaire et financier international » (19 mars 2009) (http://www.un.org/ga/president/63/letters/recommendationExperts200309.pdf)

« Tendances mondiales de l’emploi » OIT (janvier 2009) (http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_103280.pdf)

“The global economic crisis and development – the way forward” UNCTAD & NGLS (http://www.unctad.info/en/Public-Symposium-Website/.)

« Document de référence. Pour un nouveau modèle économique et social. Mettons la finance à sa place » ATTAC-France (26 mars 2009) http://www.france.attac.org/spip.php?article9786

“Alimentons l’Europe – Lettre ouverte aux candidats aux élections européennes » Juin 2009 (www.alimentons-l-europe.eu)

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