Investors back global online market-place for ethical green farmers

Investors back global online market-place for ethical green farmers
A woman collects strawberries at a farm in Thailand. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2019

Investors back global online market-place for ethical green farmers

Investors back global online market-place for ethical green farmers


 KUALA LUMPUR: A former investment banker has raised more than $10 million to expand a startup that helps developing-nation farmers using green and ethical methods to earn more by linking them directly with food buyers around the world.

After a decade investing in commodity markets at Deutsche Bank and Korea Investment Corporation, Hoshik Shin set up online marketplace Tridge in 2015 to build a network of sustainable producers and link them to buyers at home and abroad.

Food sold on Tridge includes peppermint leaves from Egypt, peanuts farmed in Nigeria and mangoes grown in India and Thailand. “At the moment, suppliers in emerging countries are so restricted to just meeting local buyers,” said the South Korean entrepreneur, whose venture secured $10.5 million this month from investors to bolster the business.

“Through our platform, they can meet foreign buyers more easily ... prices will improve and that gives bigger benefits to both farmers and their employees,” Shin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Tridge users include the world’s largest retailer Walmart Inc and French supermarket chain Carrefour, said Shin.

Globally, consumers and retailers are demanding more information about the goods they source, buy and eat, to make sure their production and transportation does not damage the environment, or use illegal and unethical business practices.

In response, manufacturers of household brands, restaurants and other businesses are seeking to attract more customers by offering products guaranteed free of deforestation or slave labour, for example. Earlier this year, conservation group WWF launched a website that harnesses blockchain technology allowing users to scan a QR code on a product or menu revealing its full history and supply chain.

Seoul-based Tridge makes use of artificial intelligence, data and algorithms, and has about 80 employees in 40 countries verifying that suppliers are trustworthy and ethical.

Food sellers on the platform, who are based in about 150 countries, can cut out middlemen and traders along the supply chain, who often take a cut and push up prices.

“The buyers get cheaper sourcing, and the supplier can get a better selling price,” said Shin.

Once linked, producers and their customers can do business away from the website, with suppliers paying Tridge for the connection.


France wants end to US-Europe trade spat

France wants end to US-Europe trade spat
Updated 17 January 2021

France wants end to US-Europe trade spat

France wants end to US-Europe trade spat
  • All eyes on President-elect Biden to resolve disputes between partners

PARIS: The EU and the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden should suspend a trade dispute to give themselves time to find common ground, France’s foreign minister said in remarks published on Sunday.

“The issue that’s poisoning everyone is that of the price escalation and taxes on steel, digital technology and Airbus,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview.

He said he hoped the sides could find a way to settle the dispute. “It may take time, but in the meantime, we can always order a moratorium,” he added.

At the end of December the US moved to boost tariffs on French and German aircraft parts in the Boeing-Airbus subsidy dispute, but the bloc decided to hold off on retaliation for now.

The EU is planning to present a World Trade Organization (WTO) reform proposal in February and is willing to consider reforms to restrain the judicial authority of the WTO’s dispute-settlement body.

The US has for years complained that the WTO Appellate Body makes unjustified new trade rules in its decisions and has blocked the appointment of new judges to stop this, rendering the body inoperable.

The Trump administration, which leaves office on Wednesday, had threatened to impose tariffs on French cosmetics, handbags and other goods in retaliation for France’s digital services tax, which it said discriminated against US tech firms.

Overturning decades of free trade consensus was a central part of Trump’s “America First” agenda. In 2018, declaring that “trade wars are good, and easy to win,” he shocked allies by imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from most of the world.

While Trump later dropped tariffs against Australia, Japan, Brazil and South Korea in return for concessions, he kept them in place against more than $7 billion worth of EU metal. The bloc retaliated with tariffs on more than $3 billion worth of US goods, from orange juice and blue jeans to Harley Davidson bikes, and took its case to the WTO.

While Biden promises to be more predictable than Trump, he is not expected to lift the steel tariffs immediately. Even if he wants to, he could run into reluctance from producers in “rust belt” states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania that secured his election win.

Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of trade think tank ECIPE, said the US was unlikely to award Europe a “free pass,” noting that countries that had offered concessions to have their tariffs lifted could complain if Europe won better treatment.

Resolving future trade disputes could become easier, if Biden reverses Trump policy that paralyzed the WTO by blocking the appointment of judges to its appellate body.