Originally posted October 10, 2010, but always current and a good reminder.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Letters to the Editor
"Fair trade." "Free trade." These terms couldn't be more different.
Free trade agreements between countries (such as NAFTA) eliminate tariffs, quotas and
preferences on most goods and services traded between them. While it allows easy
exchange of goods between member nations, it has had devastating effects on small
producers and farmers and the environment in many poor countries. These producers
simply cannot compete with high-tech agriculture and manufacturing industries in
developed nations, like the United States, where many industries are also governmentsubsidized.
Fair trade, in contrast, is a system of exchange working with farmers and artisans in
developing countries so their products can compete in the world market. It guarantees a
fair wage in the local context and safe working conditions. It builds long-term trade
relationships. Financial, technical and marketing assistance is provided.
Free trade member-countries tend to shop for cheap labor and resources, giving rise to
sweatshops, and regardless of effect on the environment.
Fair trade, meanwhile, ensures that working conditions are safe and environmentally
sustainable practices are encouraged.
In a nutshell, free trade is not necessarily fair.
The writer is manager of One World Goods