Fair trade has emerged over recent years as a powerful initiative to socially regulate global markets. This movement seeks to challenge historically unequal international trade relations and promote social justice and environmental sustainability in global production. Fair trade strives to foster the wellbeing and empowerment of producers and workers in the global South through the provision of higher prices, stable market links, better working conditions and community development resources. In the global North fair trade seeks to promote responsible consumption and provide shoppers with alternative, typically certified, socially and environmentally friendly products. Over a million producers and hundreds of millions of consumers participate in these new transnational networks, with annual sales of certified Fairtrade products exceeding US$6 billion (Fairtrade International 2013). In this chapter we analyze the fair trade movement and market, focusing on the complex and contested nature of fair trade institutions, market relations, commodity networks and production conditions. Our analysis shows how in each of these arenas social movement efforts to promote alternative relational and civic values are repeatedly challenged, but not subsumed, by dominant market forces seeking to advance conventional commercial and industrial interests.
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