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Town of Taos asked to join Fair Trade initiative

The Taos News

Fair Trade or free trade? What do those terms mean to the consumer?

The Taos News has been running a poll on our Web site www.taosnews.com and the majority of the more than 250 Taose-os responding to the poll, did not understand the difference between fair trade and free trade products.

And in theory, Fair Trade pays producers enough to make a profit from their work.

The debate has merged with questions about the genetically engineered seeds, labor prac­tices that literally hold work­ers hostage and the vanishing industrial jobs in America.

The effect of free trade dominance in American trade policy grows each year with the unprecedented rise in the U.S. Balance of Trade. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States had a trade defi­cit in September of $56.5 bil­lion.
American labor leaders have said more and more U.S. jobs are lost overseas as the deficit grows.

The global debate asking whether Fair Trade or free trade is best swirls around laws that favor corporations and send American manufacturing jobs to overseas countries where labor is cheaper.

The World Trade Organi­zation (WTO) has faced pro­tests from Fair Trade support­ers during the past several years who charge corporate monopolies leave producers in poverty while the corporations reap huge profits. Wal-Mart is often mentioned in the discus­sion.

Remember when Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton preached that Americans should patron­ize the retail chain and “Buy American”?

That time has passed.

The Arkansas company now operates 66 stores in China. By the end of the year, Wal-Mart expects to acquire Taiwan­based Trust-Marts for $1 billion, according to the International Herald Tribune. The acquisi­tion would make the company the largest foreign retailer in China.

The trade deficit between China and the United States is the largest with any country.

Whether the product is shoes, shirts, carpets or coffee, the consumer is beginning to ask how foreign manufacturers treat their workers and whether farmers raising products, such as coffee are paid a reasonable profit by the corporations that WTO insists they must sell is the only avenue they can use to sell their products.

In theory, Free Trade allows the only the open market to determine the price producers are paid for goods.

What can be done in Taos?

Steve Gloss of Sustaining Cultures in Taos is hoping to convince the Taos Town Council to become a certified Fair Trade town.

If the town agrees to par­ticipate in the initiative, Taos will become the fifth American community to join the cam­paign and the first in the Western United States.

Educating consumers about Fair Trade practices have sig­nificantly raised the standard of living for farmers and work­ers around the world, Gloss said.

There are several steps a municipality must follow to become a Fair Trade town, he said.

The first is the adoption of resolution supporting Fair Trade. The town would also agree to appoint a committee to organize events that raise awareness in the general pub­­lic, Gloss said.

Gloss hopes to organize a mini-film festival about Fair Trade, possibly at the Taos Community Auditorium.
“Fair Trade is primarily about people, he said.

The resolution used by the four other communities that have joined the Fair Trade Initiative also states that the municipality will buy Fair Trade tea and coffee for meetings and offices whenever possible.

At least two Fair Trade prod­ucts should readily available in local shops and restaurants. “Taos easily fulfills this provi­sion,” Gloss said.

Many coffee shops, restau­rants and grocery stores in Taos have served Fair Trade prod­ucts for some time, he said.

The town council is expect­ed to vote on the Fair Trade resolution in January.

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