Free trade not fair trade will end African poverty
Yorkshire Post 
, 27 April 2005 John Meadowcroft
In his sermon on African poverty the Archbishop of Canterbury has added his voice to the growing chorus of religious leaders, politicians, pop stars and even television presenters who believe that fair trade offers a solution to Africas plight.
While the Archbishop and others are right to draw our attention to the fate of the worlds poorest continent, unfortunately fair trade will not end global poverty and could make things worse.
Fair trade undermines economic efficiency and has the potential to increase corruption.
It involves governments or aid agencies picking winners businesses they believe merit special treatment in the marketplace that are then supported even if they are uneconomic or badly run. It has the potential to increase corruption as different businesses compete to be the one favoured by government or agencies. Economic prosperity cannot be based upon policies that support inefficient or uneconomic enterprises. That is the way to economic ruin.
There are many myths about the causes of Africas malaise, but the truth is that economic prosperity is actually relatively easy to achieve.
In fact, it is so easy that Hong Kong a tiny former colony with almost no natural resources has managed to achieve it; Hong Kongs per capita GDP is now more than $25,000, compared to the UKs $23,000.
Indeed, the example of Hong Kong is instructive for all of us who wish to see an end to global poverty. In 1950 Hong Kong was classed as a developing country, but in the last fifty years it has caught up with and now surpassed many of the worlds richest nations.
Hong Kongs economic prosperity has been built upon free trade; it has one of the most open economies in the world with few barriers to imports or exports. Its prosperity was not based upon rich people buying fair trade products but on participation in the global economy, initially at relatively low wage levels.
Indeed, when I was growing up in Huddersfield in the 1970s my parents were reluctant to buy goods with the Made in Hong Kong label because they believed such products were made by exploited workers slaving in sweatshops. Today, those exploited workers are richer than we are!
In Hong Kong, free trade has been supported by a government that has provided a