28 June 2005

"Ever felt dumped on?"

I found that making trade fair is one of the most challenging contemporary economic issue: one where we can have a direct action, that is not about charity and that doesn't even involve rescuing a country from a dictator. It is just about being fair, applying the same rules for all.
We, in France, in Europe, in the States, suddenly complain about low-cost textiles from China submerging our markets at prices that local traders can't follow. And yet, we still have the power to negociate a compromise.
But we forgot a little too quickly to my taste that we're doing the exact same thing on a much more dramatic and destructive scale in third-world countries who don't have any choice but to accept the conditions with which they're trading their goods.
Shamelessly, we dump (we don't even trade actually, we just dump) our surplus, the excess production that is super subsidized by our Western governments when the producers of third-world countries don't have the right to be helped.
(I found "dump" to be the right word moreover because of how we consider those countries our large-scale garbage: we think that it is actually helping them that our old clothes, our old computers, our old car motors, our old fridges, our expired medicines are dumped on them because it's better than nothing and it empties our closets at the same time! Well, no. Ask yourself just that: would you accept to live with over-used, sometimes dangerous features around you?)
Oxfam produced a wonderful fair trade campaign earlier this year - and it's still going on. It's called "Ever felt dumped on?" and stages various celebrities on whom emblematic products at stake in the fair trade are dumped (coffee, chocolate, cotton, rice, etc).
I was also very moved recently by Tony Blair's historical speech on Europe - indeed, Great-Britain is not the most expected country to envision what the European Union could be. So I was rather pleasantly surprised. And even if I don't always agree with all of his vision, I'm truly grateful that Blair stood-up and spoke against the subsidaries that European agriculture gets, and in particular in France. I know it's a difficult subject for the people involved in agriculture, in a culture that is very anchored in family and tradition: they're trying to preserve a know-how and they don't want to see this passion disappear along with the kids leaving the countryside to move in evergrowing cities. But I'm convinced there's a possible balance to find. That it doesn't have to mean the death of agriculture in the Western world in exchange of a society that becomes aware of the consequences of its wastes.

-- Joëlle.

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