World Fair Trade Day is celebrated this year on Saturday May 14. It’s an opportunity to envision a world where trade helps support healthy and sustainable communities around the world. We are called to not only reflect on the importance of our consumption choices, but also to evaluate the larger systems at work.
International governance and regulatory agencies are largely used to maintain inequitable systems in which the corporate wealth of wealthier countries is protected, and the harmful environmental impacts of corporate production are off-shored to poorer countries. One such agency that develops and maintains the unjust system is the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Back in October of 2020, India and South Africa proposed a waiver of WTO intellectual property barriers that limit global production of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to insure improved global health equity. However, just this month, known as Fair Trade month, the WTO Director introduced text that would firm up and create even more intellectual property barriers to COVID vaccine, testing, and treatment access in developing countries. This policy decision favors the wealth accumulation of large pharmaceutical companies at the expense of global health. And as we have seen with the COVID-19 virus, the variants that develop don’t isolate in certain areas of the world but travel to reach us all eventually.
It’s important that we support small farmers, producers, and workers by purchasing fair trade products whenever we are able. But we should also do our small part to improve the systems that are designed to keep some people poor and marginalized.
As people of faith and conscience, we are called to care for the sick and vulnerable. And we must acknowledge that our own liberation is intricately tied to the liberation of our siblings around the world.
Please Urge the Biden administration to take steps towards ensuring greater access to COVID vaccines, testing, and treatment between rich and middle- and low-income countries as well as within countries.
World trade should not pose barriers to global health, but rather support healthy and sustainable communities worldwide!
Learn more about the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Fair Trade programs here
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