Friday, May 8, 2009
May 9 is World Fair Trade Day . . . Who Knew?
This is the Season to be Jolly!! 4/20, then Earth Day, then May Day/Beltane/International Workers Day, then Fair Trade Day!!!! (and Mother's Day, lest I forget to mention . . .)
Apparently celebrated the second Saturday of May since 2002, Fair Trade Day is designed to raise awareness of the economic disparities and injustices in international "free-trade" arrangements. Fair Trade is designed to ensure that the people at the base of production get their fair share of profits from any given product.
Chocolate is one of the most disparate products in terms of working conditions and wages for the cocoa bean picking people. Often it is children that pick the beans for your chocolate--and for minimal wages, if they are payed at all.
Fair Trade certification is designed to ensure that the people harvesting the means to make your deliteful snacks and deserts, and whatever foreign-produced products receive fair compensation and are not exploited. Fair Trade is designed to make sure that children from where your exotic imports come from get to live their years as children, with a decent education and time to play, rather than serving as slave labor to provide you with indulgences such as hot cocoa, chocolate bars, etc.
Though there have been questions raised as to how effective and how reliable "Fair Trade Certification" might prove in any given case, at least this is a start towards healing the abuses of so called "free-trade." At least these consumer options are a move towards giving back to the worlds workers some semblance of what they deserve for providing luxuries like chocolate where cocoa beans don't grow, or bananas in a cold climate, etc.
President Barack Obama on Fair Trade (Berlin Speech): "(Global trade is unsustainable if it favors only the few.) This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all."
Let's hope our President's policies live up to such worthy words!!
Regardless of whether official policy dictates fair trade (an area of government intervention that would be quite justified), you can take action by what you purchase. If exploitative labor practices are rewarded by boycotts, and truly Fair Trade by high sales, the market and producers/multinational corporations will be forced to respond, and some greater degree of justice and equity will make it to the suffering workers at the source. Issues of "the market" aside, some degree of legislation is necessary to make Fair Trade the force it should be to make this world a more healthy, beautiful and just planet for its peoples and other inhabitants.