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Trade justice not “Free trade”

8 Members of St Helens joined ~50 other Christians from Churches in Abingdon at 9 AM on Sunday 26th September to travel to Brighton.  Yes the weather was fine and it was a nice day out but that wasn’t why we went.  We went to campaign for Trade Justice outside the conference hall where the Labour Party was having its conference.  We were campaigning for Trade Justice not “Free trade” – The” free trade” agreements that are currently in place are devised to benefit strong economies and Global companies and us living in the West.  Here are some facts from the Christian Aid web site:
“Free” trade facts
1. International trade is worth $10 million a minute.
2. But poor countries only account for 0.4 per cent of this trade. Since 1980 their share has halved.
3. Rigged trade rules cost the developing world $700 billion a year, according to the UN.
4. Income per person in the poorest countries in Africa has fallen by a quarter in the last 20 years.
5. The three richest people in the world control more wealth than all 600 million people living in the world's poorest countries.
6. Nearly half the world's population (2.8 billion people) live on less than US$2 per day.
7. The prices of many poor countries' key exports are at a 150-year low.
8. The world's 50 poorest countries have less than three per cent of the vote at the International Monetary Fund, an institution whose financial decisions spell life and death for ordinary people around the globe. Just one country - the US - has sole veto power.
9. At one full meeting of the WTO, the EU had 500 negotiators. Haiti had none.
10. After one round of trade negotiations, rich countries calculated that they would be $141.8 billion better off, while Africa would lose $2.6 billion.
Why campaign on trade?
Half the world's population are living in poverty and the gap between rich and poor is widening.  But it doesn't have to be this way.  We can change it - by making international trade work for the poor so they have a chance to work their way out of poverty. That's what the Trade Justice Campaign is all about.

What we're calling for
We need to persuade the UK government that, to end poverty and protect the environment, we need trade justice - not free trade.
They need to press for:
1. Changes to the rules and conditions of the IMF, World Bank and WTO to allow poor countries' governments to protect their small farmers and traders, and help new industries to get off the ground
2. An end to dumping cheap, subsidised exports on developing countries
3. Binding international legislation to ensure global corporations meet basic social and environmental standards in poor countries
Christian Aid is also a member of the Trade Justice Movement - a broad and powerful coalition of charities and campaigning organisations who all believe it's time to change the way the world trades.
What can you do:
Christian Aid lobbies as an organisation and also encourages people like you to use your voices for change by taking action - like sending postcards, writing letters or attending events – Visit for details.
On the journey to Brighton we had a brief service focusing on some of the justice issues we would be campaigning for.  When we arrived at Brighton we just had a few minutes for lunch before there was a rally highlighting the world wide trade issues and what was being done about it in various countries.  We then marched along the front, led by a samba band to the area outside the conference hall.  We were then all silent for two minutes than banged kitchen utensils for 2 two minutes (a style of protest common in South America).  We then cast our votes for trade justice, in all >6000 votes were cast that day and it felt like there was that many people there.  We then marched back along the front and had a couple of free hours before sleeping most of the way home on the bus.
In summary out of free trade we get cheap goods and the poor pay the price with their lives and poverty.
Trade justice should give the opportunity for the poor to work their way out of poverty.   Local governments the chance to decide what is best for them and their people.
Will you join the campaign?

Article for St Helens Window November 2004

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