Trade is now a favorite topic for many politicians and the media, especially between China and the U.S. Likewise, labor and progressive groups continue to delve deeper into trade issues, offering a variety of working class solutions. The far right, too, is obsessed with trade, using it to fuel nationalism and anti-China sentiment. No subject is prone to so much demagoguery combined with so little explanation.
Before one can offer a vision of "fair trade," it's helpful to understand what "trade" is.
A popular misconception of trade is that governments trade goods between themselves. The false implication here is that trade is a national issue, equally important to all that fall within the boundaries of certain countries. This mistaken premise -- promoted by both media and politicians -- leads to erroneous conclusions.
In reality, governments have very little to do with trade. Instead, giant corporations are the main actors behind global trade:multinational corporations produce goods -- in China -- and sell these goods overseas to other corporations -- to Wal-Mart, for example.