Protectionists Should Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Sunday Business (London, England), March 16, 2003 | Go to article overview

Protectionists Should Wake Up and Smell the Coffee


COFFEE has emerged as the latest battleground between proponents of free trade and anti-globalisation activists, who are successfully exploiting the fact that prices for the commodity are at 30-year lows to promote their protectionist agenda. While it is always easier to call for more restrictions to be imposed on multinational companies when poor farmers in developing countries are suffering, the case for restricting free trade in coffee is as weak as that for any other good or service.

World poverty has many causes but too much free trade is not one of them: new regulations would make life even worse for struggling coffee farmers in developing countries, while endangering the world's trading system and dealing a further blow to the global economy. Unfortunately, the anti-free trade cause is fast gaining ground and is even supported by such glamorous celebrities as British actress Joanna Lumley and TV presenter Fern Britton, who recently encouraged UK consumers to take part in a "24-hour Coffee Break".

ActionAid, the development charity, decreed the past two weeks a "fairtrade fortnight"; Oxfam recently published a report claiming that new roasting technologies used by multinational companies are driving down coffee prices and impoverishing farmers. Typically, the insights of Chris Martin, frontman for rock band Coldplay and someone not previously known for his expertise in international economics, have also been offered in support of Oxfam's "fair trade" campaign. "Trade is ridiculously unfair - all it would take is awareness", he says. "If a few companies were less greedy the people at the bottom would have a lot more."

Protectionist sentiment is also growing in the rest of Europe and in the US. Letters from "fair trade" coffee businesses in Europe have appeared in the Financial Times to support Oxfam's report and its recommendations. In the US, several Democratic representatives recently signed a letter to the Wall Street Journal claiming that the practices of multinational companies "are fuelling a global coffee crisis with serious and lasting effects on much of the developing world".

It is unclear what "fair trade", the proposed alternative to free trade, really means. To some, fair trade means open trade with the same rules applying to everybody; for many anti-globalisers, fair trade is synonymous with no trade. In the case of Oxfam and ActionAid, "fair trade" means rigging the rules to ensure that multinationals are forced to buy coffee produced according to certain criteria.

By that definition, "fair trade" coffee is grown on small, family-run farms, without the use of pesticides, to be contrasted with coffee produced by multinational companies with the use of new technologies, which allow them to use lower quality, cheaper beans, and pesticides, to boost productivity.

Crucially, while forcing companies to buy "fairtrade" coffee would drive up the price of production and reduce corporate profits, it would not help poor farmers. Much higher prices and lower profits would encourage multinationals to buy less coffee and to invest even less in production capacity, choosing instead to grow their own beans on their own plantations. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Protectionists Should Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.