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Background: the European Fair Trade Association (EFTA)

The European Fair Trade Association unites 12 of the most important importers of nine European Union countries.

The association was founded in Holland in 1990, with the end of uniting 11 importers of fair trade products from 9 European countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The members include:

  • Ctm Altromercato, the main distributor of fair trade products in Italy. It was founded in 1988 in Bolzano, Italy. It originally functioned as a cooperative (Ctm-Cooperazione Terzo Mondo), until, in 1998, it was converted into a consortium of specialized stores baptized the Ctm Altromercato. Currently, the consortium includes 118 organizations (associations and cooperatives) that manage a network of 230 stores throughout Italy.
  • Gepa 3 Fair Handelshaus, the main European organization for alternative trade. “GEPA” can be translated as Society for the Promotion of Agreements for the Third World. The organization tries to improve the conditions of work and life of the inhabitants of low income countries, following in the spirit of the Agenda 21 of the UN (which tries to achieve economic, social and ecological sustainability). The organization, with religious roots, has 15 regional fair trade centers in Germany that provide fair trade products to another 800 businesses around the world. Likewise, numerous stores and conventional distributors sellGepa products. Gepa es, as well, a licensing organization and an importer of products that come under the mandates of FLO International.
  • Traidcraft: an organization of alternative commerce with headquarters in the United Kingdom, founded in 1979 and dedicated to “the fight against poverty through commerce”. It has 2 subsidiaries: a distributor,Traidcraft plc, that offers fair trade products in the UK; and a charity organization, Traidcraft Exchange, specialized in developing commercial networks in poor countries.

The European Fair Trade Association buys craft and agrarian products from producers in developing countries, with the intention of improving access to quality products and to strengthen producer organizations in these countries.

The members of EFTA generally follow the standards developed by FLO, to which they add additional standards to improve the conditions of women, ethnic minorities, political refugees, etcetera.

In Europe, the members of EFTA sell their products through specialized stores (also known as “Worldshops”), local associations, traditional distributors and catalogue sales.

The importers of fair trade products also perform educational works, informing consumers and public administrators about this type of commerce.