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Tim Worstall

You’ve got a higher tolerance for idiots than I have. I went through most of that at the other site and no one, absolutely no one, was connecting with your points.

Brave man to keep at it.

HJ

Anthony, you stiiill haven't decoupled fair trade and Fairtrade (eg fairtrade coffee) - what's going on? these are two entirely distinct concepts!!!

Are you talking about Fairtrade? Well this is to do with collectives and providing a fair price to producers; and nothing to do with equitable dealings between nation states, in trade negotiations through the WTO ("fair trade").

In this post you seem to start off talking about the latter (fair trade as opposed to free trade, in your view), and then switch to the former (fairtrade coffee). Until you sort these out your bafflement at people not getting or engaging with your points is going to be your permanent state.

AJE

HJ,

thanks for the comment - a fair point.

I think that I have tried to address your point, and have used "fairtrade" to mean the specific certification (in the case of coffee) and "fair trade" to mean the general concept.

If i've slipped from that distinction during this post i apolise, but skimming through it i'm pretty happy that i've made the distinction. It may just be the fact that I use a lower case "f", and maybe my grammer should be clearer.

Having said that, i'm almost always talking about "Fairtrade" since i'm not sure what "fair trade" is all about - if it's voluntary, but consistant with ethical intent than "free trade" strikes me as meaning the same. Those that say "fair trade", therefore, really mean "Fairtrade". In which case we can treat the two as meaning the same.

HJ

Hi, yup it's an interesting topic, and I think it's great you've sparked this debate on it..

If you're talking about fairtrade I agree with all your 5 points in your previous post, ie:

Should we ban it? NO
Should we make it compulsory? NO
Does it work? undecided
Could it work: YES
Am I unethical for questioning it? NO

I'm not sure, and am interested to read more about whether it can work. At the moment, it's a, what, 5% proposition - 5% of the coffee market? what are the constraints on this going higher? Perhaps only 5% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for ethical coffee. Could we reduce the premium and moderate the extra degree of ethicalness, in order to increase demand? How else can we increase demand? Do the Fairtrade foundation envisage a situation in which it could (if demand were sufficient) be rolled out to 100% of producers in a particular country, or would this lead to dilution of standards such that it would be rendered meaningless? At what point does its rollout encounter political and economic constraints in the country of production? If all workers are earning higher wages does this merely produce inflation which renders these gains null? If this is so, then what structural factors (perhaps international trade agreements) need to be addressed so that we're not providing a 5% proposition for a minority (because it cannot be anything but) of workers?

There's a different factor, often conflated, called fair trade, which is not necessarily opposed to free trade, as you have said. I think the arguments of people like Esteban in the Green LA Girl site discussion were that neoliberalism militates against both free trade and fair trade, although it likes to disguise itself as the former. It actually favours concentration of wealth in ever decreasing number of corporate owners, thereby working against free markets. It creates the walls of development Vandana Shiva has written about; which she opposes to the flattening of the world imagined by Thomas Friedman.
http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2005-05/27shiva.cfm

It doesn't have much to do with Fairtrade, which as a consumer branding mechanism is entirely aligned with and at home within neoliberal economics and corporate practise, providing a feelgood product for the ethical consumer.

HJ

http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/about_standards.htm

Some interesting info here: seems Fairtrade involves two types of intervention: traders paying a premium (eg 5 cents per pound above the current average minimum price of $1.19 per pound for Arabica coffee) to smallholder producers; and certifying largescale producers as Fairtrade if they pay a decent (unspecified) wage to their workers.

So it can go up to quite largescale outfits.

Interesting to find out what the economic effects are of tacking 5c per pound on the price paid! I wonder how they would answer the charge that this can only be a minority proposition. What do you think the effects are from the point of view of theory?

They explain the whole idea (re coffee) in terms of world overproduction and non-elastic demand; and smallholder producers being unable to switch production away from coffee.
http://www.fairtrade.net/sites/products/coffee/why.html

HJ

Any thoughts at all? :) thought you wanted to debate this...

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