Jemima Agyare comments

Jemima Agyare
Jemima Agyare

There's so much press and publicity on fair trade and it has gone some way in raising awareness on issues concerning global trade. However, although the promotion of fair trade and fair trade products goes some way in addressing equity in trade it is not the end of the story. More needs to be done to make the international trading system truly fair by challenging governments to make the rules of global trade equitable.

The development model for developing countries that is most favoured by liberal international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF is the export-led growth model which advocates abolishing trade barriers, exporting one's produce and selling it on the international market. In this way the economies of developing countries would be integrated into the international economy. Although this liberal approach advocates free trade and market liberalisation, this is not fully realised and there is a neglect of actual free trade in practise. Many of the states, which claim to practise free trade developed their economies through protectionism and a strong state and also provide subsidies and tariffs to protect their industries. One only has to look at the EU Common Agricultural Policy and the US Agricultural policy to see how 'free trade' is not actually free. Heavy subsidies of farmers in the EU and US do not allow resource-poor small holder farmers in the developing world to compete in international markets. Such policies are made in favour of those who set the rules, and in the international system these are the developed countries.

The power relationship between developed and developing states in terms of trade is heavily biased towards more powerful developed states. Developing states are not only reliant on developed states for loans, aid and technology, but also exist in a global trade system where export/import rules are heavily skewed in favour of the wealthier countries, maintaining an imbalance in the global political economy. Within the international system developed states are able to exert a large amount of influence over developing states, often forcing them into unfair and exploitative trading relations.

Genuine fair trade can only become a reality when there is the unified commitment in both developed and developing states to operate in an international trading system that allows competition on a truly level playing field. CR

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