Fair trade must be threatening someone’s bottom line.

Starting today, The Economist is hosting an online debate. The proposition: “This house believes that making trade fairer is more important than making it freer.” Two economists, one for and one against present their positions. You can vote or comment after completing a free registration. Read my own comments below.

“Free trade” is a rhetorical term that means whatever you want. Bearing little relation to actual agreements in which special trade relations are spelled out, it most frequently serves to justify or consolidate the power relationships that best serve a threatened international (or bi-lateral) establishment.  Read More…


  1. Readers may be interested that last week BBC radio interviewed me about our campaign back in 1976 to import instant coffee from Tanzania to the United Kingdom. It started the idea of ethically sourced coffee in the UK. The broadcast is now available on YouTube:

  2. I think you misunderstand the fair trade movement. It’s approach is to help producers in developing countries improve their trade conditions with developed countries. Too many times these developed countries suffer from child labour and other violations due to inadequate trade agreements. Fair trade resolves this.

  3. When President Obama was campaigning he brought up several criticisms of NAFTA. What came of all that? Anyone know?

  4. In the long run free trade is the best approach. Equilibrium among the disparity of the social classes will be met and poorer nations benefit. The idea of fair trade hinders prosperity through more red tape.

  5. Although the current NAFTA agreement has benefited Americans more than us it is still good for this country seeing as how the alternatives we have are quite poor (just look at television — American tv is head and shoulders better than ours).

  6. I am a proponent of fair trade and feel free trade has hurt Canada more than helped it. We are now more dependent on the U.S. than ever before and have nothing to show for it.

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