Vera is one of our current interns at Global Gift Short North. She is interested in Fair Trade and understands the importance of Fair Trade for people in countries all over the world. As an international student at The Ohio State University (OSU), she would like to talk about her personal thoughts about Fair Trade in China and the US.
“Made in China” may not be a completely positive concept in most people’s minds. The image of factory production with cheap labor is attached. When we talk about the difference between Fair Trade organizations and unethical factories, the factories in Asia, such as in China and the Philippines, often comes to mind. Does Fair Trade exist in China? If so, what is the situation?
Honestly, it is hard to simply answer the questions concisely because of its complexity.
My experience is that Fair Trade is not popular among the majority of Chinese people. In the United States, people can buy Fair Trade certified products and can find some Fair Trade stores. Easier access to information is available to Americans so that they can also find out more about Fair Trade. By comparison, there are fewer currently operating Fair Trade organizations in China and these fail to earn enough media coverage and public interest. However, workers are still under certain legal protection, such as social welfare, minimum wage, and proper working conditions, which is similar to the United States. From a consumer perspective, there are not many opportunities for Chinese people to learn about Fair Trade concepts and how their purchase can potentially help artisans and producers.
At the in-store jewelry section at Global Gifts Short North, there is an information card with the story of a Chinese artisan, right next to her handmade jewelry. She is a typical working class woman in China: living in a big city without a higher education, having the responsibility of raising her child, and facing a high living expense. When I was in China, I saw a lot of similar cases, but had no idea of solutions to help women like this artisan. Now, I realize that Fair Trade can be a potential solution. Take our Chinese artisan as an example. She receives a fair wage because of Fair Trade. More importantly, this job enables her to offer her child a proper education, which means much more to her.
I did not hear about Fair Trade until my class instructor at OSU invited a guest speaker to present about Fair Trade to the class. For many of my classmates, it was also their first time learning about the concept. One of the apparent differences between advertising Fair Trade in China and in the United States is how accessible the information is and Fair Trade products are in the US.
Working as an intern at Global Gifts, now I am more knowledgeable about Fair Trade and the process of Fair Trade from artisans in developing countries to retailers in the United States and other countries. It is apparent that this is a work about sharing your goodness and your attention with the rest of humanity. Surprisingly, it is also an experience of enriching visions. For me specifically, it is a second chance to know my home country.
It is time for you to know more about Fair Trade and the story behind each Fair Trade product and each artisan. Come to Global Gifts to discover more about Fair Trade! Your purchase matters!
[*Photo credits: www.geology.com and www.peacelovewholesale.com]