Zeitgeist Magazine, for the story behind the news
Issue 3,
Volume 10,
16 June 303 AP

The Story
behind the news.
Utania's attraction to business
Hope's missing agenda
Will Cryer rule forever

& Eras
Rovens: Is PIMR in the communist's pocket?
Zartania remembers the war
Ulnovabad's commercial missions

& Smalik
Club'NIZ to expand?

The Quadria
Porto Capital's new defence force
Westria's sixth year

Looking to a lighter future

Dyson's Lendosan suiter
Delacroix considers Utania
Osprey Technologies settles with the UEC

& Finance
The "Fair" trade agreement
Moun's Front legacy

RZOEAZ's Albionish 500
Vela Luka prepares for the Savant 350
Fiona Elma: diva?

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Jerman for "Spirit of the Age". In this case it is to mean the "spirit" of the Utanian people, the magazine reporting the people's thoughts behind the press-releases and reported news.

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It is the policy of this magazine not to identify the authors of any Zeitgeist articles. It was conceived in the early days of this magazine, by our founder, Mr van der Hamm, when authors were being threatened by Guwimithian Authorities for their anti-Imperialist columns. Our founder endured jail time in Imperial prisons for his "insolence". Now, the policy is to demonstrate that this is a magazine, not a collection of authors.

© Zeitgeist Magazine, 302 AP.

©Mike Ham, 2002. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)
The Aethel-Vinnish "Fair" trade agreement

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Furthermore, in line with our earlier criticisms, there must be measures included by which assistance by wealthier nations can be rendered to poorer ones to implement such reforms. For there is little doubt, such reforms will not only undermine the unscrupulous "foreign devils", but will attract resistance from local ones as well.

Ensuring the system works

As noted above, the foundation of "free market" capitalist theory is that poorer nations will export goods more cheaply than their wealthier counterparts, and the trade surplus will drive capital into their local economies, eliminating the poverty that binds them.

However, experience has shown that there are several barriers to the success of this idealistic philosophy, not least exploitation by select groups preventing the revenues of trade surpluses reaching those most responsible for the surplus, the poor.

Too often the beneficiaries of trade with poorer nations are not the poor farmers on the label of the coffee, but the landowners, the trading and exporting companies that have exploitative contracts with the farmers. Could any reader of this article think of any company better known, and more roundly condemned, for employing this form of exploitation, over the past few years than Utania's own Belson Corporation?

While Utania exports billions of punds in agricultural produce, Belson has been making obscenely large profits that exceed even their payments to the farmers themselves. On April 25th, 301, it was reported by the UPA that for a typical C0.45 apple imported from Utania, only 5 of those cents goes to the actual Utani community that grew them, and that Belson earned more in profit from that one apple than it paid the farmers for it.

Yet, despite this, the FTA is curiously lacking in concern for the deserving benefactors of this "fair" trade? Indeed, there are several measures in the agreement designed to protect workers with minimum wages, union rights and the benefits of unemployment pensions, but none of these will protect self-employed workers that make up at least half of Utania's labour force.

The agreement is devoid of protection for cooperatives, small businesses and agricultural workers, most of whom are self-employed. Again, it would seem that the FTA's authors have a strangely worker-employer attitude, wherein employers, including the self-employed, are undeserving of protection as they are themselves the very capitalists the agreement is seeking to protect workers from. Regretably, it is a short-sighted and culturally narrow vision.

For the same reasons that the agreement must seek to protect capitalism, it must also seek to protect the self-employed worker, and should not simplistically divide the world into two classes of people. Measures must be added to the FTA to ensure that the benefits of "fair" trade reach not only factory workers, but all stakeholders, including the apple-pickers.

Preparing for the inevitable

There is no doubt that this agreement is considerably ahead of its time. Not only in so much as it is seeking to address issues of fairness, but that it addresses issues of international capitalism, while free trade is really only in its formative stages on Vexillium.

Trade on Vexillium is still broadly protected by nationalist interests around the globe, a legacy of the old protectionist empires that once ruled. Few international trade deals have been struck, and even fewer companies are true multi-national concerns. Yet, while it may take time for the world to adjust to the new and emerging liberalism in trade that is available since the collapse of the Empires over the past five-plus years, the issues intrinsic in free trade should at least be considered long before their effects are felt.

These are worthy and important issues that will need consideration over the coming years. Not least, these issues should be considered in Utania, as the country, under President Hope's administration, is rapidly becoming a free-trade haven, with numerous foreign companies looking to become international corporations by moving their operations to these shores.

Therefore, it is heartening that both Aethelnia and Vingarmark are looking at the issues, and even moreso, for Utanians, that the Utanian Peoples Party is looking closely at the outcomes of Aethel-Vinnish efforts.

However, while this agreement provides a worthy heading, it is not the solution acedemics, economists, businesses, and, most of all, politicians will have been looking for. It is heavily tainted by the cultures of the two nations concerned, and assumes much about the financial capabilities of signatory nations; and it very seriously neglects and entire arena of "fairness" required for "free trade" to work, namely that of ensuring competition and protecting smaller businesses and self-employed workers.

These are very significant shortcomings of a document that seeks to become a standard bearer for the "fair" trade era of Vexillium's history, yet these are not insurmountable, nor is the agreement so far progressed that such omissions cannot be added. What is essential, however, is that the authors of this agreement see these omissions as necessary additions, and do not allow their own cultural or political dogma prevent them from seeing them in this light.

Overall, the "Fair Trade Agreement" is certainly a step toward addressing these issues on a global stage, and, for that alone, it should be commended.

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The only hope for capital markets in Utania: Hope!

Belson, Utania's largest food processing company. Link to homepage.