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Old 09-03-2008, 10:06 AM   #1
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Fair Trade

I was putting together a "fair trade" basket for the silent auction at our upcoming Church fair. I went to a local whole foods store for the items and was surprised to see that there were only a few items marked "fair trade". Coffee, tea, chocolate... Everything was organic - but are we consumers to assume that organic is fair trade? Why is it easy to purchase fair trade coffee, but not a can of soup?

Is the terminology "fair trade" just a brand name to help impoverished countries? How many of the products on our shelves at the supermarket or department stores are fairly traded and how many were not?

Do we need a better guide to cut through the red tape of what is made fairly? Is it easier to shop with your conscience than I think it is?
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Old 09-03-2008, 11:49 AM   #2
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More info on Fair Trade, Fair Trade certified products etc. can be found here:
FLO International: Home Hope this helps!
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Old 09-03-2008, 01:12 PM   #3
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more fair trade info regarding products: Fair Trade Certified | Transfair USA | Welcome

an organic product is not necessarily a fair trade product. it is likely that very few products in your local mega-mart are fair trade certified.

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Originally Posted by BostonAnne View Post
I was putting together a "fair trade" basket for the silent auction at our upcoming Church fair. I went to a local whole foods store for the items and was surprised to see that there were only a few items marked "fair trade". Coffee, tea, chocolate... Everything was organic - but are we consumers to assume that organic is fair trade? Why is it easy to purchase fair trade coffee, but not a can of soup?

Is the terminology "fair trade" just a brand name to help impoverished countries? How many of the products on our shelves at the supermarket or department stores are fairly traded and how many were not?

Do we need a better guide to cut through the red tape of what is made fairly? Is it easier to shop with your conscience than I think it is?
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Old 09-03-2008, 01:17 PM   #4
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I'm not for any trade that causes any more Americans to lose their jobs. Sure it sucks others in other countries have problems but we have to take care of our own first. Really in a country this size there really isn't that much we need to get from other places.
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:15 PM   #5
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Then let's just skip the US out of the world market. The comeback of the isolationalism.

It's a little funny how some people complain about the evil foreigners that are taking jobs away from Americans after how American companies behaved on the world market.
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:17 PM   #6
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Then let's just skip the US out of the world market. The comeback of the isolationalism.
It worked wonders for North Korea.
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:28 PM   #7
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Yeah, if you like some starvation it's quite an desirable option.
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:33 PM   #8
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People may be clinging to life eating grass, but at least they are living off the land
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:33 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Se7en View Post
more fair trade info regarding products: Fair Trade Certified | Transfair USA | Welcome

an organic product is not necessarily a fair trade product. it is likely that very few products in your local mega-mart are fair trade certified.
Thanks for the link!

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Fair Trade Certification is currently available in the U.S. for coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, rice, and vanilla.
This answered my biggest question. I knew most of it, but didn't know to look for fair trade sugar, rice and vanilla. Wheat and Corn should get on this list next.
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:50 PM   #10
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Corn should get on this list next.
HA! good luck with that one!
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Old 09-04-2008, 08:09 AM   #11
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Then let's just skip the US out of the world market. The comeback of the isolationalism.

It's a little funny how some people complain about the evil foreigners that are taking jobs away from Americans after how American companies behaved on the world market.
In general, I am in favor of free trade and open markets. One thing I would change is that I'd like to see free trade only between free societies. I think that would address a lot of the fears that people have about free trade stealing jobs and sending them to unsavory nations that make, for instance, $2 a day, as all of these nations generally veer towards autocracy and corruption, rather than a free market democracy. I see the incentive-based system of how the European Union brings nations into its fold to be an interesting model for how we could engage in free trade globally, and, as such, nations that wish to engage in free trade would have to demonstrate that they engage in free and fair elections, respect human and civil rights, and have business policies that do not restrict competition or punish those who vote to unionize.

However, I do agree that U.S. companies are in a very sorry shape these days, because they just do not invent or innovate anymore. People talk about how the "American worker" needs to be more competitive, and that's bullshit. The American worker has always met every challenge given to them. The trouble this time is that it is a massive failure of American business management, which isn't creative enough and seems to equate "success" with how large their personal pay and benefits package is, rather than the long-term viability of their company. After all, when all else fails, we can either merge with another company or declare bankruptcy, both of which will inevitably result in substantial job losses. A merger might bring a short term boost in the stock price, but I've never known an instance where having fewer companies and fewer competitors has ever been a positive for the consumer, positive for labor, or positive in terms of making newer or better products.

As far as I see it, people blaming "free trade" or "illegal immigrants" for the U.S.' market woes are missing the point that it is mainly a massive failure of our business world to create sustainable growth, and a massive failure of our government, which has enabled this bad behavior by approving every corporate merger sent their way. I also don't see this changing anytime soon, so maybe American workers should lobby for the right to emigrate to other nations, just as so many foreign workers can immigrate here. "National borders" should not be a proxy phrase for a prison cell that its citizens are locked into against their will, particularly since globalism is here to stay and American corporations are under no requirement to stay within their national borders.
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Old 09-04-2008, 11:16 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by BostonAnne View Post
I was putting together a "fair trade" basket for the silent auction at our upcoming Church fair. I went to a local whole foods store for the items and was surprised to see that there were only a few items marked "fair trade". Coffee, tea, chocolate... Everything was organic - but are we consumers to assume that organic is fair trade? Why is it easy to purchase fair trade coffee, but not a can of soup?

Is the terminology "fair trade" just a brand name to help impoverished countries? How many of the products on our shelves at the supermarket or department stores are fairly traded and how many were not?

Do we need a better guide to cut through the red tape of what is made fairly? Is it easier to shop with your conscience than I think it is?
Here is a link, where you can request a free catalogue. Providing you live in the U.S.

Fair Trade | Catholic Relief Services

Hope this is helpful.....
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Old 09-04-2008, 04:44 PM   #13
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Thanks A stor!

The catalog of products will come from agreatergift.org. They are a great organization and I have been selling their products at my Church during the Holidays.
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Old 09-09-2008, 11:40 PM   #14
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In general, I am in favor of free trade and open markets. One thing I would change is that I'd like to see free trade only between free societies. I think that would address a lot of the fears that people have about free trade stealing jobs and sending them to unsavory nations that make, for instance, $2 a day, as all of these nations generally veer towards autocracy and corruption, rather than a free market democracy. I see the incentive-based system of how the European Union brings nations into its fold to be an interesting model for how we could engage in free trade globally, and, as such, nations that wish to engage in free trade would have to demonstrate that they engage in free and fair elections, respect human and civil rights, and have business policies that do not restrict competition or punish those who vote to unionize.

However, I do agree that U.S. companies are in a very sorry shape these days, because they just do not invent or innovate anymore. People talk about how the "American worker" needs to be more competitive, and that's bullshit. The American worker has always met every challenge given to them. The trouble this time is that it is a massive failure of American business management, which isn't creative enough and seems to equate "success" with how large their personal pay and benefits package is, rather than the long-term viability of their company. After all, when all else fails, we can either merge with another company or declare bankruptcy, both of which will inevitably result in substantial job losses. A merger might bring a short term boost in the stock price, but I've never known an instance where having fewer companies and fewer competitors has ever been a positive for the consumer, positive for labor, or positive in terms of making newer or better products.

As far as I see it, people blaming "free trade" or "illegal immigrants" for the U.S.' market woes are missing the point that it is mainly a massive failure of our business world to create sustainable growth, and a massive failure of our government, which has enabled this bad behavior by approving every corporate merger sent their way. I also don't see this changing anytime soon, so maybe American workers should lobby for the right to emigrate to other nations, just as so many foreign workers can immigrate here. "National borders" should not be a proxy phrase for a prison cell that its citizens are locked into against their will, particularly since globalism is here to stay and American corporations are under no requirement to stay within their national borders.
I'm not opposed to the concept of free trade either. The problem I have with that is, that so far the developed countries have always, either directly or through their institutions (namely IMF and World Bank), promoted free trade for the lesser developed countries, of which many have followed that "advise" (advise is a nice euphemism when one takes a closer looks at the practices of the formerly mentioned institutions).
So far, free trade is only for others. Sure, the EU among each other engages in free trade, and NAFTA would be free trade either.
But that's not it. Free trade doesn't work when the one side, i.e. the weaker country, has abolished all or at least almost all of its protections when the other side, a modern developed country with a strong economy still uses about all means of protectionism you can think off.
There is some interesting research done by the UNCTAD that compares the development of countries that have followed the advise by the Bretton Woods organisations (lured by large checks readily available) and opened up and other countries that have kept themselves as protected as possible (one of the prime examples: the Tiger states). The conclusion was extremely unison: Those countries that stayed protected are now doing (relatively) well, those that accepted the checks and then opened up (often through extreme pressure by the IMF, after all they have accepted their money) got screwed.

So, in my opinion it doesn't speak against free trade in general. But the way we go about it is extremely counterproductive and, since it is done in my view with intent, immoral by all countries involved.
The EU promotes fair trade, but to countries outside it doesn't practice what it preaches. Ever seen the bills that standardize bananas or cucumbers?

I would love to see free societies all around. However, I think we are trapped here. We could isolate every country that isn't a free democracy (including China and, soon, Russia), arguing that trading with them gives those autocraties sort of legitimacy and keeps them alive. Well, considering how world markets function today and how the economies of the West function these days, that of course is simply impossible. And as we have seen, both trading with them as well as isolating them so far has not solved any corrupt and brutal regime (one might bring the Soviet Union in here, but I think that's a topic completely on its own and it's not that easily comparable. Also, there have been other forces that caused the whole thing to finally crumble).
Of course, with every country we trade we also should be a firm partner that demands them to treat their citizens as human beings and labor to be respected. I'm just a bit concerned it might be in many cases a bit too late now, like in the example of China. We have made ourselves so dependent on those countries that we cannot longer afford to step up and demand them be more respectful of their people as we could even ten or fifteen years ago.

The lack of inventions that come from many US companies (of course, others are still very exploring) really is something I find very strange. Most apparently, or bluntly, can that be seen by the car manufacturers. I can't think of any important development to cars that was made by a US manufacturer in the last at least two decades (maybe someone knows more). It was either German, French or Japanese companies, and the Americans followed. I guess the reason was simply, for many years their cars sold extremely well as they were. Except for making them bigger and more powerful there wasn't much need for improvements. Or they just introduced what foreign producers developed.

My comment regarding AnnRKey's post, however, was more in the direction of American companies, or private equity funds, penetrating foreign markets around the world, buying up foreign companies to no end and setting off labor force everywhere, or just pushing competitors out of the market to sell their stuff, as well as the US in general being the greates pusher of the modern world market system, but when same happens to US companies, either by aquisition or simply being driven out of the market, there is an outcry of how unfair this system is and how the US just should withdraw from world markets when it is to the disadvantage of anything American.

I hope my strange sentences do make sense in the end.

I share your argument how the short-sighted shareholder-value principle of today is corrupting the markets and the companies involved, and that it is, in fact, not the American, German, English, French or where ever from worker that is responsible for the failures of companies that are solely looking for the next quarterly figures in their report to the investors. I think we will see some more years going like this, but in the long run companies especially in developed countries will have to disengage from the stock markets again and the structures that now favor this management which comes in and forms a company that is doing extremely well for a short period of time, then tumbling and sometimes even crumbling long-term, will be swept away. And I hope I'm not too overly optimistic here (after all I'm a German, it goes against my descent to be optimistic at all).

From what I take, there is many Americans that love travelling, but emigrating from the US? It's the same in Europe. Theoretically, as a EU state's citizen you can settle anywhere within the EU and start working right away. But how many really do that? I guess a tiny percentage, if it's even a percent. Young people like to go abroad, older people sometimes go abroad because close to retirement they want to start new somewhere else. Like the parents of a friend of mine who have recently moved to Norway, which is quite a step considering that's not even a EU member, so immigration and working there is more "difficult" than, say, Sweden. However, for most people I know going abroad for good isn't really desirable. For many, going to a different part of Germany is more than they are willing to do. They are even (more so) hesitant moving to Denmark, and that's just 1.5 miles from my home.

Making immigration and emigration of workers easier and free labor movement in more than just some regions available sure is a nice thing to not only think about but also to put into practice. Our countries really are no prisons. But I guess we would hardly see the great movement of labor around the world.

As a European or American, blaming free trade for the woes of the own economy is, considering that it isn't these nations that really engage in free trade, a tad cynical.
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