Is Trade, Not Aid the Answer?

Lectures have properly started now, so it’s officially autumn and I thought I’d better write a final post reflecting on my placement.

I want to start by saying I’m really glad I did this placement and I recommend everyone currently at university – first or second year, studying Geography or otherwise – look into getting an internship or placement or something to find out what a realistic graduate work place might be like. It was useful from a careers perspective in both getting experience and finding out more about the ethical trade industry.

What has been playing on my mind throughout the placement and especially now lectures have started back, are the arguments about using trade as development. Fair trade began post-WWII with handicrafts from Eastern Europe, sold in Oxfam to try to help them recover economically. Since then it has blossomed and the phrase ‘trade not aid’ was used in the 1980s (and is still used today) to show the benefits of trading fairly with people from the Global South rather than just throwing money at the problem of poverty.

While this does make some sense, I was quite sceptical ever since I heard the phrase as I think aid is a necessity in some parts of the world for some people, and this phrase seems completely against aid. When I first heard that The Body Shop’s ‘community fair trade’ value was originally called ‘Trade not Aid’, it shocked me. But listening to the people I met, it was clear they all thoroughly believed that the work they did genuinely helped people – as one person said it’s all well and good giving water and food, but people have a right to earn a living as well. 

This is an on-going debate in the literature I’m currently reading for my Fair Trade and Ethical Consumption module, but what do you think? Vote in the poll to have your say. 


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