The huge growth of Fair Trade products in the UK shows the power that consumers have to change companies’ practices. This has resulted in a fairer deal for thousands of producers and their communities around the world.
But more needs to happen if ALL producers are to get a fair deal. To achieve trade justice for everyone, we need to change the rules and structures of the global trading system. At the moment, countries with the most power and influence dominate the institutions which decide trade rules, such as the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This means that they often write rules which benefit rich countries, with poorer countries losing out.
For example, poor countries are made to open up their markets to foreign imports, meaning that richer countries are able to sell their products there. Goods made in richer countries have lower production costs, thanks to government subsidies and better infrastructure. Therefore foreign imports can actually be sold cheaper than locally-produced goods in poor countries. This means that local producers lose opportunities to sell their products and earn a living.
The government, multinational institutions, and some large corporations can help to change the rules that cause these problems. But we need to ask them to use their power to do so, and we need to spread the word so that other people demand justice too. Here are some of the issues we need them to address, together with links to campaigns to which you can add your voice.
Economic Partnership Agreements
The EU is in the process of negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements with 76 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. These countries had previously been given preferential access to EU markets, to which they could export their goods. Many producers depended on this preferential access, because they cannot produce goods as cheaply as other exporters to the EU. However this preferential access is now being taken away because of its incompatibility with rules set by the World Trade Organisation. Campaign with Traidcraft to stop these deals being pushed through – find out more here.
Campaign for the workers who make your clothes
Clothing companies are subject to increasing scrutiny for the low pay and poor working conditions in their overseas garment factories. However more action is needed to end exploitative wages and practices for good.
Find out about Labour Behind the Label’s urgent actions here.
Join War on Want’s ‘Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops’ campaign here.
Stand up for small scale farmers
The UK Government can support small scale farmers in developing countries through increased investment and by championing fair and sustainable methods of producing food, as well as the role of co-operatives in small scale farming. Co-operatives help farmers to pool their resources, in order to grow more food and to negotiate collectively for fairer prices. Find out more about Oxfam’s GROW campaign to see how you can help support farmers.
The electronics industry
Workers are routinely exploited for the metals we use in computers and mobile phones. From conditions in the mines to practices in factories, the whole supply chain of the electronics industry needs to be overhauled. Help to spread the word to others, ask electronics companies to take responsibility, and urge governments to demand more transparency in supply chains.
Get some in-depth information from Global Witness.
Read more at Friends of the Earth.
Take one of the actions suggested by Congo Calling.