Dynamics in International Campaigns and National Implementation

Movement on fair trade
Zuraida Mae D. Cabilo

“Fair trade” is identified primarily as a concept developed in the North. As an alternative to the predominant trading system, it is a relationship of exchange characterized by transparency that engenders trust and long-term commitment among producers, alternative trading organizations, consumers, and other fair trade organizations (FTOs). More than three decades since fair trade initiatives in the North have continuously grown either in support of people’s movements under repressive regimes or as a critique to the predominant trade and development policies of northern governments, organizations identified as “fair traders” were established in the Philippines as early as the 1970s. Since then, Philippine FTOs have flourished.

This case study focuses on the birth pains of Philippine Fair Trade Forum (PFTF), the lone umbrella network of fair trade advocates and practitioners. PFTF was created by various Philippine fair trade organizations during the 2001 meeting on the regional formation of Asia Fair Trade Forum. The forum’s mandate centers on domestic and international market access; serving as a repository of product and member information; developing a fair trade advocacy in the Philippines specifically on raising consumer awareness; and, policy advocacy on issues that have an impact on marginalized producers and other actors in the fair trade movement.

Emphasis is given to how PFTF articulates its fair trade discourse advocacy in the national and international contexts. The paper argues that while the fair trade movement enjoys a relatively broad support in its campaigns in the North and a far-reaching base of grassroots organizations in the South, the movement in the Philippines has not yet fully realized its social, political and economic power to promote fair trade principles and practices in the local context due to three factors: (1) the origins of individual organizations; (2) the absence of a coherent and cohesive advocacy; and (3) the type of fair trade products being produced, as well as the uncompetitive price of these products.

(Photo credit: International Fair Trade Association,

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