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Foul play at Fair Trade Fair

Industrialised and developing nations do battle at Bern's railway station swissinfo.ch

Industrialised countries clashed on Monday with developing nations during a friendly football game played inside Bern’s railway station.

This content was published on September 1, 2003 - 19:35

The symbolic match was part of a “Fair Trade Day” designed to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the developing world on the open market.

Players cried foul when the referee - who did nothing to hide his impartiality - ensured the rules of play favoured the team from the industrialised world.

Footballer-for-the-day Melanie Friedli – a Kenyan-born Swiss citizen - said the aim of the match was to poke fun at World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

“This football match demonstrated how unfair the rules for trade are, how the WTO has its regulations which favour rich countries,” she told swissinfo.

Friedli’s team were trounced 9-0 in the first game, but the developing world fought back to win the second match 2-1 after the referee agreed to adopt “fair play” rules.

Market stalls

Monday’s fair in the Swiss capital also included a variety of market stalls set up to sell so-called “fair trade” products from all over the world.

Stalls offered everything from handmade Indian saris to Guatemalan honey and Peruvian coffee – all sustainably-produced goods that members of the public seemed keen to snap up.

“I am looking at new products that I’ve never seen in my life before,” one visitor told swissinfo, “and I think the fair is a good idea because we are helping these people to develop their trade.”

The Swiss are the world’s biggest consumers of such products, which are manufactured in developing countries according to a strict set of social and environmental guidelines.

“We are generating turnover of SFr112 million with annual growth of 30 per cent,” noted Paola Ghillani, president of the Max Havelaar Fair Trade organisation.

Switzerland’s two leading retailers, Coop and Migros, also stock fair trade products on their shelves.

Fair price

Hans-Peter Egler, head of development-related trade issues at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, said the popularity of the “fair trade” label was proof that consumers were prepared to pay a premium for such products.

“It’s a multi-stakeholder approach and this helps countries in the developing world to penetrate the market with goods developed according to their own criteria,” Egler said.

Isabelle Mamaty, an expert in trade issues from Congo, was in Bern to take part in the trade fair.

“This fair trade initiative is interesting in the sense that it is really giving the right price to the producer,” she said, “and this addresses one of the frustrations that African countries face on the global market.”

Trade talks

Bern’s Fair Trade Fair comes just over a week before a crucial round of WTO negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.

The four-day ministerial conference is aimed at injecting new life into stalled global trade talks, but the Swiss economics minister, Joseph Deiss, promised visitors to the one-day event that Switzerland would help to promote greater fair trade.

“We are promoting fair trade in particular in so far as we are promoting, for example, the labelling of products from the developing world,” Deiss told swissinfo, “and this is one element which allows all these fair trade companies to be successful on the open market.”

swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin

In brief

Bern hosted a day-long "Fair Trade Fair" on Monday, with part of the city taken over by stalls selling a variety of fair trade products.

Goods on offer included Guatemalan honey and Peruvian coffee.

The Swiss are the world’s biggest consumers of such products, some of which are also sold on the shelves of the country's two leading retailers, Coop and Migros.

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