What does Tuesday’s Vote Mean for Fair Trade?

Waking up on Wednesday and trying to process the reality that Trump is now president-elect was tough. I was a Bernie supporter who reluctantly voted for Hillary. It seems apparent that the driving force behind the vote was a rejection of 50 years of Globalization and the perceived damage to US manufacturing jobs. What does this mean for those of us who have spent the better part of our lives promoting Fair Trade and rejecting elements of Globalization? Did we win or lose on Tuesday?

I think a little of both and frankly how we react today and in the months and years to come could be critical. Clearly Americans have rejected the Free Trade version of Globalization that we have been campaigning against for decades. Unfortunately the underlying message that Candidate Trump used to secure victory was one of isolationism and a rejection of inclusiveness, the opposite of values we as Fair Traders hold dear, never mind a complete rejection of Global Warming.

Today is a day that we as a movement need to make the case to the American consumer that we too oppose a globalization that includes child labor, poor working condition and exploitative pay. A globalization that makes it cheaper to produce in China than Michigan. Trade does not have to be a force for exploitation and enrichment of the few. Trade can be a force for positive change. Fair Trade seeks a level playing field where workers worldwide are paid fairly and given opportunities to improve their lives. In such a scenario, American consumers still have access to the goods and cultures of a globalized world without the unfair conditions that encourage corporations to shift production to the cheapest economy they can find. Our trade policies can lift communities in the developing world and not exploit them. Our trade policies can make US manufacturing viable without resorting to isolationism.

For decades those of us in the Fair Trade movement, myself included, have resisted making this case and focused more on the impact we are having on small communities. We do this because we are uncomfortable with confrontation, it is simply easier to present our movement as a good cause mission than a political movement. Today I don’t see how we can continue to avoid this conversation. The Free Trade model of globalization has been challenged to its core, first by Brexit and now by President-elect Trump. If we want a version of globalization that includes Fair Trade we have to be willing to participate in that debate. Will it be uncomfortable, yes. Will we face an onslaught of abuse from those who see isolationism and exclusion as the tools to protect America, probably.

Today we face choices, we can continue as a fringe movement perceived by many as a charity in a new world where we are likely to face growing hostility for producing in “other” countries, or we can make the political case for positive change in the way America trades.

Kevin is a co founder of Global Crafts. Prior to starting Global Crafts in 2002 Kevin was a VSO volunteer in Kenya from 1999 to 2002 teaching Computer Science at Kisumu Polytechnic. In a past life he was a chef for 8 years before returning to education to get a degree in Sociology, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education and a Msc in Computer Systems.

9 thoughts on “What does Tuesday’s Vote Mean for Fair Trade?

  • Thanks for this thoughtful post. I appreciate you sorting through some of this and what it means for us and the work we do. You have made excellent points and suggestions for what our next steps might look like. I’m in!

  • Kevin,
    Well said! Thank you for your loving commitment to our sisters and brothers throughout the world.

    Peace,
    Beth Reitz
    Pastoral Associate St. Pius X Parish

  • Thank you for your thoughts and input regarding globalization. I understand your fears now that Trump will be president. But I do not see Trump and his anti-globalization as a threat. Rather, I see a change in how trade will be conducted, but that should not change anything that you are doing as a business to push and promote fair global trade. It means it will shift in how it is done, and hopefully it will be a benefit for all concerned.
    I think the biggest slap to the American public in globalization is, for example, a company like Apple. The company hires cheap labor in China to turn around and charge a very high price for the item in United States. Then why not hire Americans to do the job? The greed and method that some multinational companies have become in the way they do business, and the level of control is something I personally fear more than a Trump presidency.

    • Joanne,
      I have to agree wholeheartedly. I don’t see it as a threat to what you do. I sell italian leather bags, from Italy, as well as Italian Leather bags made in China. The bags I get from China actually cost me more than many of my bags made in Italy. The bags I get from China, are not chosen by me for cheaper cost or profit but for selection and style. I would always choose a small business, family business or something that benefits others like the products your artisans produce. The whole appeal of purchasing from you all is how it’s a win, win, win, for your small businesses, us as retailers know its benefiting your artisans, and the education we as retailers share with our customers about where and by whom their product helps.

  • Kevin – an excellent analysis of the positioning and messaging that we in the FT must adopt under the new circumstances that we now face. You accurately summarize the issues, and point the way to amplifying the FT message around “unfair trade” and what must be done about it. Thank You.

  • Thanks Kevin. Now more than ever it’s time to band together. Perhaps an angle for the haters is, help these folks to advance in their own country since you don’t seem to want them in ours. Buy Fair Trade so they can have a good quality Ter Andersof life they deserve and stay in the country they know and love. Daily I have to explain to folks the huge difference in free trade VS fair trade.

  • First time I came across your site. I was looking for a fair company I can work with and am feed up with the tactics of these other providers. I am very much a seventies republican and I have certain values I uphold. I was going to spend hours looking up your credibility and track record and than I came across this up to date post you have written in such a truthful way that I need not look any further. I will be using your service and you, yourself is what sold me. Nice to meet you.
    May are Living Father Bless You and Yours,
    Dale

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