As always, when trying to figure out what an issue is all about, it helps to turn to Wikipedia for some insight. To simplify this process for you, we have the introduction below.
"Fair trade is an organized social movement which promotes equitable standards for international labour, environmentalism, and social policy in areas related to the production of Fairtrade labelled and unlabelled goods, which may range from handcrafts to agricultural commodities. The movement focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries.
Fair trade's strategic intent is to deliberately work with marginalized producers and workers in order to help them move from a position of vulnerability to security and economic self-sufficiency. It also aims at empowering them to become stakeholders in their own organizations and actively play a wider role in the global arena to achieve greater equity in international trade.
Fair trade proponents include a wide array of international religious, development aid, social and environmental organizations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, and Caritas International.
As most developmental efforts, fair trade has proved itself controversial and has drawn criticism from both ends of the political spectrum. Some economists and conservative think tanks see fair trade as a type of subsidy that impedes growth. Segments of the left criticize fair trade for not being radical enough.
In 2005, fair trade certified sales were estimated at €1.1 billion worldwide, a 37 % year-to-year increase. While this represents less than one hundredth of a percentage point of world trade in physical merchandise, fair trade products generally account for 0.5-5% of all sales in their product categories in Europe and North America. In October 2006, over 1.5 million disadvantaged producers worldwide were directly benefiting from fair trade while an additional 5 million benefited from fair trade funded infrastructure and community development projects."
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(Photo credit: Michelle Frankfurter)