An Assessment of Possibilities for Stronger Inclusion of Upper-middle-income Economies in the Fairtrade System : Case Study Serbia

Filip Brkovic

University of Warwick Publications Service. Oct 2015 [Link]

Supervisors: Matthew Watson (Univ. of Warwick) & Jean-Luc De Meulemeester (ULB)


During the last two decades, the Fair Trade literature has constantly questioned the basic theoretical assumptions of dominant economic orthodoxies and the Fairtrade system has challenged mainstream businesses with its market successes. In the heart of this rapidly growing system is its general modus operandi stating, firstly, that all low-income, lower-middle-income and upper-middle-income economies (i.e. developing countries) are welcomed to join as countries where Fairtrade products are produced in primary production, traded and consumed. Secondly, that the high-income economies (i.e. developed countries) are the countries where Fairtrade products are traded (or processed in secondary production) and consumed.

However, the Fairtrade system's practice is inconsistent with its internal normative and operational bases in the case of nine European upper-middle income economies, which are allowed to have Fairtrade traders (or processors in secondary production) and consumers, however, their poor and marginalised small-scale producers are forbidden from entering the Fairtrade system as primary producers. Therefore, they are under a direct threat of becoming double-losers, potentially excluded from both non-Fairtrade and Fairtrade economy.

This inconsistency is important because the greater integration of all upper-middle-income economies may in practice be another step towards the creation of a more global Fairtrade system. In this envisioned state, firstly, the poor and marginalised small-scale producers and workers from nine excluded upper-middle-income economies will gain a new perspective to develop and thrive, by being included in the Fairtrade system. Secondly, more poor and marginalised small-scale producers and workers from other countries of the world will gain additional and stronger access to new markets in these nine upper-middle-income economies once they are fully included.

One of these "producer-excluded" upper-middle-income economies - Serbia, and its full Fairtrade potentials, which have never been fully on the Fair Trade radar before, will be in the focus of my doctoral research.

This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.