Contribution No.5 to the debate on FREE TRADE:
Thoughts on Free Trade
In e-mail dated 23rd February 2001 Mrs. Margaret Harrington, Fareham, Hants, UK, wrote:
Here are some thoughts on Free Trade.
We need to clarify what we mean by Free Trade and everyone else means by the term.
The Department of Trade and Industry define Free Trade as meaning open or transparent trade between countries, where the participants know what subsidies and tariffs are in place!
Most Georgist accept that genuine Free Trade has to be accompanied by some regulation. Take, for example, the farming Industry. Farmers in the UK have to adhere to higher welfare standards than many other countries. The proper care of animals and their environment is quite labour intensive which drives up costs, so that it can be cheaper to import animal products from abroad. Live animals are also exported to be reared and slaughtered in conditions that would be illegal over here. I happen to believe that this trade should be banned, and we should only allow in food that has been produced to our standards. However, others may think that this would be protectionism. For years the NGO’s have been campaigning for a ban on the export of live animals and, although the industry is distorted by subsidies, the reason given by the Ministry of Agriculture for not complying with this request was the statement that “Free Trade is a fundamental principal of the Treaty of Rome” As the country is shaken by the effects of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, caused by imported meat and spread by the export of living animals, we should bear it in mind that what is generally understood to be “Free Trade” could get the blame for the disaster.
This term has lost its original meaning and should either be dropped or called some thing else. Although true Free Trade is not possible without transferring taxation from earnings on to Land Values, it would be a pity to lose the concept, so we do need to think of another name.
The best name that I can think of is “Just Trade” – the word Just relates to Justice and is unlikely to be as misunderstood as the term we use at present.
Can anyone think of a better term than “Just Trade”?
Fair or Ethical trade are the other terms we might be inclined to use. However these words have definite meanings to Non Governmental Organizations. Oxfam describes Ethical Trade as “corporate/commercial organisations holding ethical values as central to the values of their organisation”. Free Trade is described as going beyond ethical trade, building a “supply chain and market with the express purpose of impacting on poverty”
I mentioned these alternatives because someone had suggested that the word “Fair” should be substituted for “Free” when describing the trade we are advocating. The important thing is to gain support for the change that you suggest.
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