Policy Corner: A Few Reasons to Choose Fair Trade Over Free Trade

Contributing Writer
Kerstin Lindgren

Fair World Project Publicationpolicy corner

Free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are massive global contracts created to govern the rules of trade among numerous countries. Unlike the recent global climate agreement, which focuses on one topic and is essentially non-binding, free trade agreements cover many topics – including environmental regulations, health care, agriculture and intellectual property rights – and are legally binding. Governments, along with their trade advisors and corporate lobbyists, spend years negotiating these agreements. The TPP text, for example, was finalized in the fall of 2015 after six years of secret negotiations.

These are clearly massive agreements of great importance to governments and corporations. We have noticed, however, that some people’s eyes glaze over when we talk about the TPP and the TTIP. We agree that these topics can sound dry and remote. For that reason, we have compiled a list in order to clarify who may be personally impacted by these agreements.

You do not need to worry about how free trade agreements will affect you, UNLESS:

  • You have a job. One study showed that the TPP would mean a pay cut for 90% of U.S. workers.
  • You have been affected, directly or indirectly, by climate change. Our current trade system drives the industrial food system, which in turn drives climate change. We cannot break our reliance on the industrial food system without first breaking our reliance on “free trade.”
  • You prefer to eat food that you know is safe and free of chemical residues. The TPP and the TTIP would require countries to accept food that meets only the lowest safety standards of the collective participants.
  • You would like your local government or school to adopt a “buy local” policy giving preference to local farmers and producers.The TPP would outlaw such preferential buying clauses.
  • You are a government official attempting to pass legislation to benefit citizens in your country at the potential expense of corporate profits. Earlier this year, under a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), TransCanada initiated a $15 billion lawsuit against the U.S. after President Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline deal. As free trade agreements expand, we can expect more such lawsuits.
  • You want more information about where and how your food was grown, not less. Last year, Congress announced it would repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat products after it was challenged under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. COOL is a popular labeling rule that simply requires consumer packaging to list where products and their components are produced.

So, after reading this, if you are confident that you are not affected by free trade agreements, then you can rest easy. But if you are or will be affected, then now is the time to take action!

To learn more, to see sources for the information provided here, and to take action
please visit: www.fairworldproject.org/campaigns/trade-policy.

2 thoughts on “Policy Corner: A Few Reasons to Choose Fair Trade Over Free Trade

  1. I do not support TPP and prefer free trade. I truly believe that the small farmers of the World will actually support the food system.

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