Magazine article New Internationalist

Support Trade Justice! Support Fair Trade

Magazine article New Internationalist

Support Trade Justice! Support Fair Trade

Article excerpt

The idea of fair trade began in the late 1940s when churches in North America and Europe sought to provide relief to refugees by selling their handicrafts to Northern markets. Then in 1988 'Max Havelaar', the first fair trade certification initiative was launched in Holland. The name was taken from a fictional character who opposed the exploitation of coffee pickers in Dutch colonies. In 1997, the Fair Trade Labelling Organization (FLO) brought Max Havelaar together with counterparts in other countries. Today, the FLO operates in 19 countries in Europe, Japan, North America, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand/Aotearoa.

Compared to conventional trading structures, these Alternative Trade Organizations or ATOs offered higher returns to producers in the developing world through direct trade and fair prices. The fair trade movement is a response to a global trading system that is both unjust and exploitative. As the Filipino economist Waiden BeIIo has written: 'Trade can be good or bad for national development - it all depends on the rules that guide it.'

Unfortunately, the rules are rigged to benefit the rich and marginalize the poor. Fair trade is an attempt to reverse that bias. It's not going to fix the global system. That will take major institutional changes and a determined campaign.

Fair trade principles

* Producers are paid a fair price and workers a fair wage. For crops like coffee, tea and bananas, farmers are paid a stable minimum price.

* The links between buyers and sellers are shortened, doing away with 'middle men'.

* Buyers and producers develop long-term relationships of mutual support and benefit.

* All aspects of the trading relationship are open to public accountability

* Exploitative child labour and forced labour are prohibited.

* Working conditions are healthy and safe.

* Goods are produced and crops grown in an environmentally sustainable way.

The fair trade movement provides what educators call 'a teachable moment', a chance to find out about the blatant unfairness of the global trading system. And to set standards that could redefine global trade to include social and environmental considerations.

There are hundreds of fair trade organizations across the North.

We list the major umbrella organizations here. Follow the links to find out more.

Australia and New Zealand/Aotearoa

Fair Trade Association Fosters and promotes common understanding of fair trade. Assists co-ordination of fair trade activities, supports disadvantaged producers in developing countries to access markets, and helped introduce the FLO certification and labelling system. …

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