Purpose of Fair Trade
Fair trade exists to give a chance to small farmers, artisans and workers around the world, so they can also benefit from globalization. This philosophy provides a platform that enables these disadvantaged people to rise above poverty and improve their standard of living.
This term is a favorite amongst economists, scholars and politicians. Yet, we should understand that globalization affects all of us, and connects us to everyone in the world.
In essence, globalization implies that the world is becoming smaller and more interconnected. It is applied to many subjects: the economy, communications, politics, trade, technology, information, ethics, language, ecology, and many others. When it comes to Fair Trade, though, it mainly revolves around politics, trade and the global economy.
In our side of the world (in North America), globalization has been very kind to us. You wake up on a bed that may be of Swedish design, assembled in Asia. You brush your teeth with a product made in the US, drink coffee that comes from Central America, put on your Chinese made shirt and your Vietnamese made jeans, work on your Japanese made computer, talk on your Korean made cell phone, snack on an African grown chocolate bar, and drive your German car to school or work. At school or university you received Spanish classes from an Argentinean teacher, the person sitting next to you is from India, and you get your food served by someone from Mexico in the cafeteria. If you’re at work, you may have to discuss software issues with your programmer in the Ukraine, and try to convince your client in Australia that she will get her program soon. Indeed, globalization has been very kind to people of developed nations such as the US, Canada, Western Europe and Japan.
However, people in less fortunate countries do not fare as well. While globalization has opened the doors for different countries to communicate, share ideas and engage in trade that should ultimately develop the world, in many situations it has also opened the door to exploitation. Many third world countries do not have the resources to compete equally with developed nations. In cases like these, the powerful corporations in these nations set up a factory, a plantation or a mine in the poor countries under the pretense that they will pay the workers a salary (which is better than no salary), pay taxes, and improve the local economy. Even though it is true that the people in the poor countries want a job and opportunities, the ones offered by multinational corporations are far from ideal. What ends up happening is that people are overworked and are not compensated for all the sacrifices they make (their health, their family, their dignity). There is nothing the disadvantaged workers, farmers or miners can do, because they have no access to information, education, resources, credit, or many of the other privileges that the corporations from the developed world have ready access to.
It is no one’s fault that this system started, since people were just following the economic theories they knew. However, we are at a point where we realize that this is an unethical way of doing business. That is why people from both developed and developing nations have created the system of Fair Trade. It aims to empower the artisans, farmers and miners with education, access to credit, information about the markets, and communications tools so they can compete in the globalized economy. In the end, Fair Traders hope to create a system where the artisans and farmers become independent and self-sustainable. That is why Fair Trade exists: to create justice, to empower people, to break the poverty cycle, and ultimately so everyone can produce and buy products that are healthy for the people and the planet.