The Fairtrade disagreement in the United States between Fairtrade Labelling International (FLO) and Fair Trade USA is set to heat up after the International Fairtrade body recently announced that leading global and regional brands will soon launch a large range of products bearing the International Fairtrade Mark onto the U.S. market.

In May this year, Massachusetts-based U.S. worker-owned fairtrade co-operative supplier and fair trade advocate Equal Exchange released an open letter to Larry Blanford, the CEO of fellow New England specialty coffee company, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) in the form of a full page colour ad in Vermont’s Sunday edition of the Burlington Free Press. This strongly encouraged the multi-billion dollar brand to withdraw its support from certification agency, Fair Trade USA (FTUSA).

Equal Exchange said: “In today's ad Equal Exchange challenges GMCR to open your eyes...to the controversy raging... and leave Fair Trade USA in light of recent unilateral changes enacted by the agency. Without input from stakeholders, on January 1, FTUSA abandoned the global Fair Trade system (Fair Trade International, aka FTI) and loosened eligibility rules to allow large coffee, cocoa and sugar plantations to receive Fair Trade certification. That would put these large estates in direct competition with the hundreds of small-farmer co-operatives around the world, who co-created the Fair Trade movement and have been the core of Fair Trade for over 25 years.”

In March 2012 the Board of Fairtrade International (FLO) approved the launch of the FAITRADE Mark on the U.S. market. “Since then the Mark has already started appearing on products in the US,” FLO said. “The groundwork has been laid for a new organization to help promote the international Mark, and Fair Trade in general, to US consumers and businesses.”

“For the Fairtrade system this is a great opportunity. Not only to work more closely with grassroots organizations and businesses in the USA, but it also represents a unique opportunity to expand our efforts to make trade fairer,” said Molly Harriss Olson, Board Chair at Fairtrade International. It said one of the consequences of FTUSA leaving the International Fairtrade system is that FLO-CERT no longer provides services to FTUSA.

Long-standing Fair Traders as well as companies completely new to Fairtrade are among those who have signed up to use the international FAIRTRADE Mark in the US. These include: Barry Callebaut; Canterbury Coffee; Divine Chocolate; Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate; La Siembra Co-op – Camino; LUSH Handmade Cosmetics; Serendipi Tea; and Verve (Glee Gum).

FLO said: “Companies interested in benefitting from clear Fairtrade chains of custody from producer to consumer and in using the international FAIRTRADE Mark should contact Fairtrade Canada at license@fairtrade.ca. Fairtrade Canada, a member of Fairtrade International, is assisting US companies that would like to be part of the international Fairtrade system while the new organization in the US is set up.”