22 February 2005


Publicity has been given to the development of free trade agreements in recent times. In theory free trade aims at the abolition of tariffs and the opening up of markets making trade easier by allowing market forces to balance needs, supply and demand.

In practice the outcome can be very different. Quite apart from the fact that many developed western nations presently seem to wish to retain a range of subsidies and tariffs, it is also true that developed nations and multi-national corporations are best placed to take advantage of any freeing up of world trade.

The advantages of international trade are not visible to all people in the world. For small farmers, access to market or price information is difficult and as a result, many become increasingly dependent on middlemen and receive smaller and smaller returns for their work. In bad times, many lose their only property - their land - and thus, their livelihoods. Similarly many plantation workers endure low pay, unsafe working environments and poor living conditions. To often they lack the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their lives on the plantation. The way that many products are produced, traded and consumed is unjust and a major cause of continuing world poverty.

For a comprehensive discussion of trade related issues visit the Global Issues website. For information about how you can support the implementation of fair trade visit the website of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand

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