October 20, 2004

The historical need for Fair Trade: The Indian example

Writing about web page http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761557562_7/India.html

As we are covering colonial development at the moment, I thought that for my entry on the historical antecedents of Fair Trade and the creation of the conditions in which Fair Trade became necessary or desireable, I would look at the example of the British presence in India in the 1600s-1947.

A brief précis of the Encarta article linked above is as follows: the British East India Company and other European nations and corporations were originally attracted to India by the possibility of new markets in which they could buy raw materials and sell manufactured goods. By the time the British East India Company was established as the overall ruler of India in the mid-18th Century, and thereafter until independence, the British bought raw materials such as cotton, shipped them home for processing, and then sold the manufactured goods back in India, thereby ruining native cottage idustries. That is why a plank of Indian nationalism in the early 20th Century was the spinning of one's own cloth and the making of one's own clothes, and also why the symbol at the centre of the flag of the independent India is the spinning wheel.

This relates to Fair Trade in that it amply demonstrates the attitudes of the First world (as it was later named) towards the third; an attitude which is still exemplified not only by exploitative trade practices such as the refusal to pay a fair price for goods, but also by the existence of structures such as the EU's Common Agricultural Policy which acts as a very effective barrier against foreign goods by allowing Europen farmers to sell their produce at a lower price.

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