Jan 26 2012

Fair versus Free Trade as means to promote Economic Development

Fair trade schemes aim to get more of the money we spend on our stuff into the hands of the workers in less developed countries where they originate. Some examples of goods produces in fair trade cooperatives in poor countries include fruits, tea, coffee and cocoa. Some handicrafts and textiles are also available from Fair trade programs as well.

It is estimated that approximately 7.5 million producers in the developing world participate in fair trade programs, producing $5 billion worth of output.

According to the European Fair Trade Association, fair trade is

a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.

Fair Trade organisations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade”.

Fair trade as a strategy for economic development is controversial, as many argue that either fails at raising the incomes of the farmers it is supposed to serave or that it incentivizes farmers to remain in the low-productivity agricultural sector rather than seeking higher productivity jobs in manufacturing, thereby contributing to poverty in poor countries.

Below are two videos that proclaim the benefits of free trade. After watching the videos, discuss the benefits of fair trade with your class.

On the other side of the issue are several economic arguments against the use of fair trade as a strategy for economic development. First listen to this 19 minute discussion between EconTalk’s Russ Robert’s and Duke University’s Mike Munger over the role that Fair Trade coffee plays in promoting economic development.

Next, read the two articles below a

Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Fair Trade programs at promoting economic development.
  2. Outline the possible advantages of a country specializing in manufactured goods instead of primary products.
  3. What factors explain the growth in importance of multinational corporations over recent decades? Illustrate your answer where possible by making reference to your own or other countries. Do multinational corporations work in favor of or against the interests of Less Developed Countries?
  4. To what extent has the international trading system contributed to economic growth and development in less developed countries?
  5. Discuss the view that increased trade is more important than increased aid for less developed economies.

About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Fair versus Free Trade as means to promote Economic Development”

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