General Article Markets, poverty and Fair Trade

Topic Selected: Globalisation
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By Sam Bowman

I was at the Burgess Hill Fair Trade Festival on Wednesday, debating whether Fair Trade was a help or a hindrance to the developing world. I must have surprised them by being quite ambivalent about the topic: I was supposed to be arguing against it, but I had some quite positive things to say about Fair Trade. What I really wanted to argue was that our trade structures have to change if we’re serious about fighting poverty on a respectable scale.

People have a tendency to pitch Fair Trade against free trade, as if there’s a tension between the two. Quite the opposite, really – Fair Trade is quite a good example of how consumers in a free market can use their buying power to effect change that they want. I think a lot of people on the free market side have (unfairly) seen Fair Trade as being anti-market, but I see no difference between paying for the satisfaction of giving money to a Fair Trade farmer, and paying for the satisfaction of driving a nicer car. It’s part of...

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