Rachel Byron-Law
Environmental Studies 220

Fair Trade, Not Free Trade

Is it silly to battle globalization from a tiny college campus in Eastern Washington? This is a question I often pondered throughout this campaign, and I finally think I have found an answer. Though it is difficult to show people how decisions made in far away places in secret rooms affect their environment directly, Amanda Rogerson, David Brenner and I have seen that it is not an impossible task. As is evident from the questions and comments we have received at our various presentations, it is clear that education is not futile. When people can see the connection, they are appalled. The hard part is trying to figure out what people can do with that education.

Though we have accomplished less than we originally intended, I would say that this campaign has been successful and we look forward to making even more of a difference in the broader community next semester.

Since winter break, Amanda, David and I have been working on a presentation regarding international trade laws, their history, their implications, disastrous side effects, and what action everyday citizens can take. This turned out to be a much bigger job than we suspected. It took immense research for us to truly understand the complex issues, and we often had to update our presentation as in regards current politics. We also modified the presentation slightly for our various audiences. For the Organic Garden Club we spoke about how laws regulating GMOs could be challenged under the FTAA. For the American Indian Association we talked about wildlife, and how laws regarding the commons (we used an ocean example) could be challenged. When we spoke to the Campus Greens, we discussed the political aspects more in-depth. All clubs on campus were contacted that we thought would have some obvious connection to our subject. We ended up presenting to: Campus Greens, Organic Garden, American Indian Association, a Social Problems class, the audience at “Trading Democracy” and the Global House.

We learned the most from our presentation to the Social Problems class. That particular presentation we did on the very first day after spring break and we were nervous and missing a member of the group. From the questions we got afterwards, it was clear that we had neglected to mention that trade laws have some good aspects, too, and that they were not created with entirely evil intentions. We had also failed to emphasize the importance of NAFTA’s chapter 11, which is most responsible for damage to our environmental laws.

Our best presentation was to the Global House. We had our parts down pat by that time, we even had some handy posters that showed all the acronyms we used and what they meant. It was very organized and from the questions we got at the end it was evident they had thoroughly understood our talk, and felt the need to do something about the fact that global trade agreements are made with no citizen input, nor any regard for the environment.

Our other big project this semester was a public, free showing of Bill Moyer’s documentary, “Trading Democracy.” Our advertising was outstanding. Amanda’s table triangles were not only good advertising, they were also very informative in of themselves. They mentioned NAFTA, the FTAA, and specifically the effects of NAFTA’s chapter 11. Sometimes at dinner we heard people talking about the FTAA while looking at a table triangle. We also had two large, well-places signs, as well as mailbox reminders in every student’s mailbox and plenty of emails to the student list-serve. We also got a blurb in the Union Bulletin. We had a fairly substantial audience, more than 30. It was especially impressive for that night, there were at least six other things happening around campus that same evening. A good portion of our audience was people from the community who had read about the showing of the film in the Union Bulletin, which surprised us. This is a good sign for the future of our campaign. Before the film we gave a shortened version of our presentation, and people stayed for the whole thing. Some even had some questions at the end.

We have found that people are interested in what we have to say. Once they make it past the complex political aspects, they can see how strongly global trade affects their lives. Reactions have been mostly surprised. People don’t know what’s going on at those Free Trade conferences, which is exactly how our trade representatives would like it to stay. But people are becoming informed, and victories are being won for Fair Trade nationally and globally. Next year, when we present our ASWC petition I think there will be a lot of support.

The one major set-back in our campaign has been, unfortunately, a similar campaign! Though the two groups have similar goals, it soon became apparent that the Fair Trade Initiative had no desire to collaborate with us. Having a “Fair Trade” as well as a “Fair Trade Not Free Trade “ campaign has caused some confusion on campus. The other campaign got in their ASWC resolution right as we were ready to submit ours, and we hesitated, not wanting to confuse ASWC. Since theirs has now passed, we are now considering giving ours to ASWC next fall, which will coincide with our letter-writing campaign.

Our partnership with the Meatpacker’s Union group is increasing. The company is IBP/Tyson, a multi-national corporation right near by in Wallula. That should be a good link to the local community, which will be especially beneficial when we present to the Walla Walla City Council.

It has been an intense learning experience for the three of us, creating our own campaign from scratch. In many ways it has been difficult to regulate ourselves. Having clear goals was essential. I recommend creating a “campaign matrix,” a technique we learned at our training. It emphasizes the fact that a good campaign must focus first on the issue, then the campaign goals, then recognizing strengths, weaknesses, allies and oppenents of the group, then strategy, the method of communication, and then finally, the event. People often tend to start at the last step, which can make the method very difficult.

I am hopeful about the remainder of our campaign. It will be intimidating to present to the City Council, but I did get the chance to meet a man from the City Hall, and he was quite friendly. I am also hopeful on a global scheme regarding Free Trade. Smaller countries are realizing how destructive these regulations are. The president of Brazil ran on an anti-FTAA platform. Recently thousands of peasant farmers protested the FTAA in Mexico City. Boulder Colorado passed a resolution against the FTAA. If all goes well, Walla Walla will be next. We have seen this year that fighting globalization from a tiny college campus isn’t silly. In fact, it’s a great beginning.