Made In The U.S.A.

The Fair Trade Exemption

In Adventures on April 28, 2009 at 12:34 am

My mom gave my little cousin a bracelet from Peru for her birthday. My mom must’ve picked it up on her last Latin American cruise.

As she placed it on Hanna’s wrist, she explained that the bracelet was Fair Trade–meaning that the person who made it got most of the money that it sold for.

That sounds pretty fair.

It also made me think about all the people I’m not helping since I’m not buying Fair Trade items.

Sorry everybody. I understand that you’re the casualties in any campaign to not buy imported goods. It’s not your Fair Trade items that I’m trying to avoid. Nor am I trying to be the man who’s keeping you down. I’m just trying to avoid buying junk I don’t need from corporate importers who pocket $9 of every $10 in the sale of your stuff.

Sorry about that. But rest assured that regular folks like my mom are happy to help. Hopefully soon those American dollars will help you (and your economies) improve your lot in life.

See, there’s a way that buying imported stuff actually is the good and socially responsible approach. Unfortunately, it feels like the exception that proves the rule.

And for everybody else, don’t forget that the term “fair trade” can be used like the terms “green” and “low fat” and “high quality.” They mean different things to different people.

How, exactly, does one measure that seemingly unmeasurable term of fairness? In fair trade, it’s measured via the expensive and apparently also fundamentally flawed certifications provided by various official Fair Trade organizations. They monitor the chain of custody to ensure that nobody’s pulling the wool over anyone else’s eyes in the process.

Since I’m doubting that a craftsman in Peru is taking the time, or expense, of having their goods certified as Fair Trade, I’ll have to assume that there are other ways to get fairly traded items. Maybe looking that craftsman in the eye as you exchange money for product is a good start, regardless.

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