Last Friday, I was involved in a teleconference between Manchester, Lagos, and Jakarta, organized by British Council, along with a small group of people from NGO, media, artists, and academics, to discuss the so-called Ethical Trade. No, it's not the Fair Trade --despite the ambiguity of this term -- that concerns with the defending the price, of mainly agricultural commodity, not to drop against world market fluctuation; for ET moves beyond this by incorporating notions of ethical values such as animal welfare, social responsibilty, or environmental concerns.
I was expecting some pros-cons to take place, given the diverse ideological stand of that small group participants. But it turns out, surprisingly, that we're all skeptical to the concept. We agreed that ET is still a luxury for us, in domestic trade; and an implicit barrier to trade for our export. The idea of ethical also remains hazy --whose values are we talking about? And animal welfare? Come on, you kid me. We're still in dire need to improve, well, our very own --human-- welfare.
The idea is actually to control MNC not to abuse their suppliers in developing countries. You know, child labour, human right, illegal logging, gender discrimination, etc. But the trade-off isn't between ethical and unethical trade; but trade and no trade (read: export). Moreover, international trade is about economic welfare gains. It won't overcome problems like gender discrimination or child labor. The solutions for the latters should be pursued through other means --not from the trade--, domestically or internationally