Bah, when are these people going to realise that Free Trade isn't the problem?

We don't have Free Trade, we have massivly protected and subsidised trade due to the way we're propping up farming across europe where it really is not economically viable. If we stopped subsidising products we exported outside of the EU we'd give the developed world a break and save on our EU grants each year.

Hell, if we stopped the subsidies totally then the poor countries could export to us. Value for money and helping the developing world? It's almost like a good idea!!


Edit: As for Fair Trade, could anything smack more of shorttermism? Are we supposed to just keep on with the handouts forever? Hows about a plan to provide support through the Fair Trade subsidies to help producers move to a product there is a sustainable demand for? Don't get me wrong, it's a great way of helping people but you're back to the whole Fish/Net analogy. A continual supply of fish is not the solution we should be aiming for.
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Not sure I agree with you about Fair Trade. Give a person a fishing net and yes, they'll have fish for life, but how are they going to find the money to send their kids to school, pay for repairs to their fishing net and generally do anything other than subsistence fishing? Offer them a fair price for the fish they don't need to eat though, and you've helped them up another step of the ladder out of poverty.
I suppose my point is that paying this fair price without an end point in site is as futile as a handout. It is little different since you are choosing to give them the extra money.

What we need to do is get them producing products which can sell at market price and make them the money they need to build their societies up from poverty.

As I say, I do like Fair Trade in the short term, it just needs some long term plan and for all my searching I have found none...
That does make sense, and scrapping the CAP would be a fantastic plan. (Also a bloody obvious one if you're not French - this is an example of why I'm in favour of reducing the scope of the national veto in EU decision-making...)

The issue that fair trade tries to resolve is that farmers in the third world don't have the resources to get their products to the first world. This leaves them at the mercy of distributors, and market forces ensure that the farmers get shafted. I have a vague idea that you could do something like forming cooperatives of fair-trade cooperatives that would have enough capital to handle the distribution too...
... schemes such at this in fact are much more to my liking. Help them to help themselves, not rely on our charity, regardless of how you wrap it up.
It's certainly true that even poorer countries which may not have much in the way of absolute advantage, have comparative advantages in some areas (agriculture and manufacturing in the UK comes to mind, look at the recent demise of Rover).

Unfortunately poorer countries also have a comparative advantage, economically, over the EU and NAFTA in being able to get away with the use of child labour, older polluting manufacturing processes, deforestation, much higher worker mortality, etc. And economics is notoriously deficient at costing in these externalities.

I'm not in favour of protectionism or subsidies at all. It doesn't make economic sense to stop two countries from mutually beneficial trade. But just because the trade is mutually economically beneficial, doesn't mean it's mutually socially or environmentally beneficial. For example, a proposed deal might create a monopoly, which makes the market more open to price manipulation. I can fully imagine that two countries might agree that a trade might be of mutual economic benefit but one country might decide that the social or environmental costs outweigh the economic benefit.

Besides, when was the last time you saw a happy economist?
economics is notoriously deficient at costing in these externalities

True. This is something which the governments of those countries need to address, and which our governments need to encourage. It's a tough one to reconcile really, I'm generally in favour of avoiding intervention but there is a danger of such wrongs being overlooked when committed away from the consumers of the products in question.

I suppose the best kind of encouragement is some kind of international grant system to get their governments to put legislation in place to deal with such problems. Essentially bribing good behaviour but then that's nothing new in international politics, is it?

just because the trade is mutually economically beneficial, doesn't mean it's mutually socially or environmentally beneficial

Indeed not, but once there are closer economic ties then pressure can be put on for more acceptable social and environmental policies. And indeed bribery, as mentioned above. The EU, UN and Commonwealth all use the advantages of membership as a factor in persuading countries to implement certain policies, I suppose we need an extention of this in some form...

As for monopolies; they're as much an enemy of a free market as protectionsim and the main area where a government should intervene in my opinion. Rand's utopia shares with communism a reason for being unworkable. People are greedy and without viable competition will take whatever they can. The competition provides the balance and keeps prices under control. Take that away and your control is gone.
we have to go to Islington imminently so I'll have to make this a quick one, mate.

Economics is pretty bad at factoring in other costs but governments can be even worse, and more prone to cronyism without a doubt. I don't think any of us want a centrally planned command economy doing that. Look at how well that worked for the environment in the former USSR. Look at Lake Baikal.

whoops gotta go!

No indeed but unless the structure is in place to make the economics consider these factors then we'll just carry on regardless. I don't see who, other than the government, is in a position to make such factors count. The consumer, the media perhaps, but then it's about making people sufficiently aware of the problems that it becomes a market changing shift in their purchasing.

What next, ethical certification of companies a la ISO9000? :)