Does Fair Trade make sense?

By Eddie Kirsch

This video of course is a bit sensationalized, but I think it does a pretty good job of explaining the mission and goal of fair trade (it is endorsed by TransFair USA, the United States member of Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International)

I find this video quite enjoyable, but if you don’t, you can really get the gist of it by about two minutes in:

“Clearly farmers are the big winners in a Fair Trade model. They’re making more money, they are doing it in a way that requires them to develop business skills, they are becoming much more sustainable and independent…”  — Paul Rice, CEO/Founder of TransFair USA.

It seems as if fair trade is great — but not everyone is convinced. Notable publications such as the Science Christian Monitor and the BBC have both published articles coming down that the movement, and they have points. How viable is fair trade as a sustainable market system? How much is it actually helping farmers? As Steve Daley, worker for Worldwrite, says in a BBC article, “How can a few extra pennies a day from Fairtrade be celebrated as an outstanding achievement for the poor?”

Beyond the fair trade debate, this gets as an interesting question: How do we involve morals and fair play into economics, when the goal of a free market system is to maximize profits, and minimize costs? Is it possible to create a fair, sustainable, global market system?

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