This month’s topic, “Both in and against the market” – towards understanding Fair Trade and its critics.
Presentation by Professor Anne Tallontire, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
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 Charter).
Famously described as ‘both in and against the market’, Fair Trade uses standards and certification to raise prices paid to primary producers and set expectations on production and exchange practices.
In the past twenty years it has gained considerable recognition in consumer markets and sales through the Fairtrade International system amounted to Euro 8.5bn in 2017, a system which is used by household name multinational companies as well as social enterprises. This visibility has attracted both celebration and criticism, from both the right and left of the political spectrum – from the left for the limitations of market-based approaches and from the right for intervening in the market in the first place.
I explore the various models within Fair Trade and how Fair Trade differs from other models in order to better understand the potentials and pitfalls of Fair Trade, identify the useful criticisms and consider directions for Fair Trade in the future.