Fair Trade Arguments cont'd

Hi everyone, this isn’t part of the Fair Trade Argument Series, but part of it will be. Rather, these are some thoughts I have had today about how Fair Trade is often incorrectly perceived, as well as some attitudes that I don’t much agree with or like.

Patricia Kumar (@PatriciaKumar) is an advocate of Fair Trade and is trying to convert her town, Blacktown in Australia, to a Fair Trade town. She has been met with some resistance in converting her local council. Some of the quotes from the council debate are included below with my thoughts surrounding them. Please feel free to comment, and ENJOY :)

“There is nothing we can do, these issues are too big for us to deal with as a Council, we do not have the power to act on this”  (Alan Pendleton, Labor Councillor)

Councils do not have the power to act alone, agreed. But the council is a leader in the community, they can inspire a movement, they can create the environment for a change to happen on a large enough scale. We don’t expect the council to go about being fair trade alone, but we do expect it to be the leader in our communities.

“We know international aid never truly goes there without someone taking a bit from the top” (Alan Pendleton, Labor Councillor)

Firstly, fair trade and aid are not the same. Aid is free money given to governments (often with high levels of corruption) with no constraints and terms of use for that aid. In other words there is no monitoring of that aid; where it goes and to what uses, so it becomes inefficient and, essentially, useless. Aid has had no effect on GDP per capita in developing countries.

Fair Trade on the other hand is a business mechanism. Fair Trade encourages communities and people to start businesses, make money for themselves (which they appreciate and value higher than aid/giveaways), and choose what and how to spend their money. It encourages innovation, leadership and better working and living conditions. It can be seen as an extension of micro-lending, and we have all seen how successful the Grameen bank has been in boosting the Bangladeshi economy.

Fair Trade is about supporting those third world producers, giving them a platform to trade on with the rest of the world. Regardless of whether someone is “skimming”, as long as we support those producers we are doing the world a service.

“We have Fairtrade principles and therefore there is no point in seeking accreditation. We have one of the most ethical procurement guidelines around, we are doing our fair share. Yes, we can do more and we will but we don’t need to be part of the Fairtrade association for it” (Stephen Bali, Labor Councillor)

It is great that the council has Fair Trade principles, but there is a way to prove that, and show case that to the community. By becoming a registered and active member of Fair Trade Towns, the council can display its support of fair trade to the public, and to their communities. In fact, being part of the association and becoming a labelled organisation, the council is being recognised for their commitments to fair trade. I mean why go through all the effort of committing, and not ask for the recognition, right? Become a member, and lead your community in ethical purchasing and fair trade principles.

What do you think? Should the council be a leader for their community? Or should they wait for the community first?


Leave a reply