Free Trade

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Fair Trade and its impact on impoverished nations.

By Edwin C. Mercurio

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” Dom Helder Camara

Fair trade advocates told a European Union Conference that fair trade works. “It works for the poor people; it works for consumers. It works as a business model; it works as sustainable development; it works to protect the environment; it works as an idea." reports the Fair Trade Advocacy Newsletter.

But there is growing concern about the theory and practice of the Fair Trade movement. Despite its anti-capitalist rhetoric, it is seen as a revised form of free trade controlled by the G8 and economically dominant countries,which are continually held responsible for global trade injustices.

Fair trade is often presented as a fair way to help banana growers. However, the dominance of corporate power - Del Monte, Chiquita and Dole - leaves poorer farmers and nations with an uncertain future and destroyed ecosystems. Their dominance is built on the exploitation of lands and workers from developing countries.

There are indications that fair trade is used as a cover by transnational corporations to expand their corporate interest. Even more disturbing, according to Matthias Schmeizer of Institute Fusoziale Dreigliederung, is how Nestle (known as 2005’s “least responsible company” worldwide and one of the four big coffee roasters responsible for the coffee crisis which impoverished millions of producers) prides itself of launching a “Fair Trade” brand in Britain.

Consumers are willing to pay more for goods produced in a fair and less exploitative manner. However, questions remain about fair trade and the observance of fair labour practices.

In 2006, British consumers spent more than £290 million (approximately $450 million Canadian) on Fair…...

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