Free trade, fair trade and a Friday DVD

Our school runs a timetable where we see our senior classes three times per week. One 45 minute class, plus two double 45 minute periods. I always check two things in my timetable in the beginning of the year. My Monday morning slot and the Friday afternoon slot. I have had some great Friday afternoon classes in recent years, but you also have to pull the tricks out of the tool box to keep them on task and productive. I have double Economics scheduled each Friday this academic year.

This Friday I have given in to watching my favourite Economics DVD of all time. A little snippet of the movie Black Gold is shown below.

Black Gold: A film about Coffee and Trade, is a wonderfully insightful documentary about the plight of Ethiopian farmers who grow the sidamo coffee beans. The film begins by explaining the price farmers receive for a kilogram of coffee beans. The documentary follows the trade of coffee from the farmer, through the commodity markets to the multinational companies. The narrator explains his drive to improve the livelihoods of the rural coffee growers by promoting fair trade.  I purchased the DVD from the films website.  It arrived in my mailbox a few weeks later. The website also provides some good resources and a coffee calculator, which explains the travesty and oppression created by free trade.

Fair Trade and Free Trade

The movie or even the preview is a good opportunity to contrast the concepts of fair trade and free trade. There is a clear distinction between these two concepts, but sometimes the media and even students use these terms interchangeably. Simply, free trade is trade without barriers, facilitating the free movement of goods and services between countries. Fair trade is the concept where the gains from free trade trickle down to people in less developed parts of the world, eg rural coffee farmers in Ethopia.

Some potential resources

  • An interview with economist Paul Rice provides a nice overview of these two concepts – link
  • The Economist magazine conducted a debate on their website about these concepts – link
  • Jason Welker posted a good article a while back which critiqued the benefits of Fair Trade – link
  • A handout I also found could be useful – How-is-Fair-Trade-Different
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