Friday, January 28, 2011

How Do Our Trade Policies Force People to Migrate?

By David Schmidt - Creating Alternative and Fair Enterprise (C.A.F.E.)

Comedian Dave Chappelle featured a skit once in which he played the President of the United States. In response to the problem of millions of Americans without health insurance, Chapelle’s character offered a simple solution: since Canada offers universal health care to its citizens, he proposed Canadian identification cards for all US citizens. Americans could receive their medical treatment in Canada, free of charge!

Many people view immigration to the United States in similar terms. “Why do they have to come and use our resources, take our jobs, deplete our public services? Why don’t they just fix their own country?” Immigration reform is often couched in similar terms: legalizing undocumented immigrants is described as “amnesty”, which is, by definition, forgiving a crime that has been committed. Immigrants’ rights are often described as charity for people who have “stolen” something or “entered illegally”.

The irony of the situation is that, in many cases, massive immigration to a particular country takes place precisely because of that country’s military, political and economic intervention in the nation sending the immigrants. The British Empire of the 19th Century drained many of its colonies of their resources—people now leave India and Pakistan to search for work in England. North Africans who grew up speaking French but with little hope of finding a job at home have moved to France. The former Soviet Republics to the south of Russia are now sending droves of migrants to Moscow in search of employment. Spain has witnessed an influx of migrants from Latin American countries.

The pattern is quite simple and predictable: the colonized country is bled of its resources, its political independence limited and economic development artificially stunted. When its people cannot raise a family at home, they move elsewhere—and international ties make it easiest to move to the colonizing country.

This is the case here at home as well. The two independent nations that have seen the highest percentage of their citizens migrate to the United States are countries where the U.S. has historically been the most involved: the Philippines and Mexico. (This is not counting the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which has more of its people per capita living in the continental U.S. than any other nation on earth.)

Over the past two hundred years, these two nations have been impacted by military, political and economic intervention from the United States in myriad forms. At various points in history, forces in the U.S. Congress were pushing to annex the countries entirely. Both have felt the force of U.S. military intervention on numerous occasions. To a greater or lesser extent, their economies have been locked into a neocolonial relationship in which U.S. companies used the Philippines and Mexico as sources of raw material and markets for manufactured goods, keeping them from developing their own national businesses. There is little irony in the Mexican folk saying, “Ay de México…tan lejos de Dios, tan cerca de los Estados Unidos…” (“Woe is Mexico: so far from God, so near to the United States.)

U.S. intervention in Mexico began with a military intervention which deprived the nation of more than half its national territory, imposing the first of many foreign debts on Mexico. The pattern of intervention continued into the 20th Century; the annexation of Mexican industry by U.S. companies was encouraged by the government of dictator Porfirio Díaz. The most recent and most broad-reaching move taken by U.S. business to take control of Mexico’s economy, however, was the North American Free Trade Agreement, or “NAFTA”.

In the immigration debate, the right wing typically calls for heavier enforcement of existing immigration policy—“the law’s the law”. Meanwhile, the left wing is too often on the defensive, asking that the existing laws not be enforced as strictly. Far too little critique is offered about why the laws are fundamentally unfair, however. As long as we have trade policies that force migration and immigration laws that criminalize it, we will be left with a deeply hypocritical policy that is impossible to enforce.

Immigrants’ rights and the struggle for alternative trade must go hand in hand—you can’t have one without talking about the other.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011 Challenge - Make Every Cup Matter!

"Before you've finished your breakfast this morning, you'll have relied on half the world"   - Martin Luther King Jr.
This is my favorite of the many Martin Luther King Jr. quotes that came raining down on my facebook wall last week.   It asks us to stop and ponder the relationship we have with the unseen producers, artisans and farmers across the globe - the people who sewed your shirt, picked your coffee beans, crafted your jewelry, cultivated your cocoa and picked your morning banana.  Do you think they received a fair wage, had the privilege of decent working conditions or could provide their children with an education?  Unfortunately, the answer in most cases is no. 
There are an estimated 1.4 billion people living in poverty and existing on less than $1.25 per day.  Did you know that 15,000 children aged 9 to 12 in the Ivory Coast alone have been sold into forced labor on conventional cotton, coffee, and cocoa plantations and that 284,000 children in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon are working in hazardous tasks on conventional cocoa farms?
Pretty awful right? But what can you do? Surely it's beyond your control. Not so!
You can buy Fair Trade products and vote with your dollars.
Fair Trade is a highly effective way to help producers help themselves. Fair trade is not about charity. It is a holistic approach to trade and development that aims to alter the ways in which commerce is conducted, so that trade can empower the poorest of the poor.
So where do you begin?  
How about with the 2011 Challenge: Make Every Cup Matter?
Can you pledge to make every cup of coffee or tea that you drink a Fair Trade Certified cup?  We know that finding fair trade can be somewhat of a scavenger hunt, so how about simply committing to converting your daily cup of coffee and tea this year? You can now find Fair Trade Certified coffee and tea in nearly every grocery chain, in most coffee shops and in many restaurants. 
Just remember that every purchase matters.  With fair trade products you get quality products that improve lives and protect the planet. What you spend on day-to-day goods changes an entire community’s day-to-day lives.
So let me leave you with this one last Martin Luther King Jr. quote:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interview with David Funkhouser of FAIR TRADE USA

David talks about his attraction to and involvement in the movement, the origins of FT, the processes for certifying cooperatives that produce the goods, and how FT meets needs of smaller producers better than the so-called free trade market, ensuring that participating farmers and artisans can remain situated in their homelands, as dignified and productive citizens.
To listen to the interview podcast, click the link below:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Around the World Gifts: An All Fair Trade Vendor in San Diego!

Around the World Gifts owner, Evangely Aliangan, first learned about fair trade nearly four years ago through Catholic Relief Services.  Since her early college days, she had the dream to, one day, start a business.  While working with people and helping others has been such a part of her life, it had to be a crucial component of the type of business.  The goal was to start a small retail business just in time for the 2010 holiday season.  After countless hours of searching the web, browsing through library books, and engaging in conversations with friends and family, the business idea was developed.  It actually came in the middle of the night – almost in a dream!  And so it was…an all fair trade gift shop was soon to open in San Diego! 

The excitement was such that many late nights of research followed.  Finally, the location was leased, merchandise was ordered, a marketing strategy was lined up and the learning and exciting experience was started!  Being at Horton Plaza and being able to share the “good news” of fair trade, has been a rewarding experience.  Two months and the holiday rush have gone by and, like the New Year, new ideas are growing.  Around the World Gifts will try to remain at Horton Plaza while focusing on web sales and farmers’ markets and special events.  If the mountain won’t come to you….Around the World Gifts must come to you!

Please visit Around the World Gifts at Horton Plaza Mall in downtown San Diego, or visit our web site:
  This is another great way to support fair trade in San Diego.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Your New Year’s Resolution and Fair Trade

The New Year is a fun and vibrant time.  It is overflowing with new possibilities, and each year most of us resolve to better ourselves, often through a new system of organization or through a new, healthier exercise and diet regime.  Fair Trade San Diego would like to propose another way to both better us and better our world at the same time.

Fair trade is a relationship between consumers and producers. By purchasing fair trade the consumer supports farmers and artisans in the developing world and contributes to their livelihood, which is sustainable and which allows them to better their lives and the lives of those in their community. And the fair trade items that producers sell are high quality, often organic, created with natural materials and comes with a story - the story of the producer who harvested or created the item. Fair trade creates a closer link between the producer and consumer; it encourages the human spirit.  Through the human spirit we are called to reinvent ourselves in positive ways, we are called to re-envision our communities in positive ways, and while it may seem the New Year is the best time to do this, we are, in fact, challenged to embrace this renaissance spirit everyday throughout our lives. 

Tips on supporting and incorporating fair trade in your life this year:

  • Buy fair trade goods from local vendors; check out our vendor list and past newsletters to learn about local fair trade vendors.
  • Ask your supermarket to sell more fair trade; write a letter to the manager or have a conversation with him or her.
  • Host a fair trade event at your congregation or with your community groups; host a movie showing with discussion, sell fair trade goods through SERRV after congregational services, offer fair trade coffee at events.
  • Attend Fair Trade San Diego’s monthly meetings to learn more about the fair trade movement in San Diego; see our blog and Facebook page for date and time.
  • Sign up for FTSD’s e-newsletter; follow us on Twitter and 'like' us on Facebook to participate in contests and learn about fair trade both locally and nationally.
  • Visit Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade Federation and the Fair Trade Resource Network’s web pages to learn more about fair trade.