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Rural Sociology

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United States -- Economic policy, United States -- Foreign economic relations, Mexico -- Economic policy, Mexico -- Foreign economic relations, International trade -- Moral and ethical aspects, Anti-globalization movement


Fair trade is typically understood as an alternative market system that aims to right historically inequitable terms of trade between the geopolitical North and South and foster more direct producer/consumer linkages. We suggest that a more expansive application of the term “fair trade” to encompass agro‐food initiatives within the North and South has considerable analytic and practical utility. We profile five such initiatives in the United States and two in Mexico. The U.S. undertakings are best understood as “proto‐” fair trade projects that frame their work principally as an effort to preserve “family farming” rather than as an exercise to achieve fairness in the marketplace. The Mexican initiatives more explicitly embrace the certification‐criteria‐labeling model of international fair trade. Both, we conclude, hold potential to harness fair trade's "moral charge" to improve conditions for small producers and laborers in North and South experiencing most directly the negative effects of economic globalization.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Rural Sociology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Business Ethics 92: 267–285.

* At the time of publication Daniel Jaffee was affiliated with the University of Wisconsin‐Madison



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