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Mitsuhiro Hayashi

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Practical Study of International Cooperation and Promoting Fair Trade

Mitsuhiro Hayashi
Professor, Faculty of Economics, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Development Economics

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Introduction- Proactive Students

There are many students who are proactive, outward-minded, and have a strong interest in international and development cooperation around me. Students who are participating in seminars of their faculty, as well as those established under the International Cooperation Program of the Faculty Linkage Program (hereafter FLP), which is a learning project unique to Chuo University that reaches beyond the bounds of faculties, transcend classroom-based studies on international cooperation and fields related to the development of developing countries and are engaged in activities to seek out opportunities for practical learning not limited to the classroom environment.

In this article, I would like to introduce the promotional, educational, and awareness activities for fair trade that are being carried out primarily by these students on a voluntary basis.

Standing Up for Fair Trade

I would like to begin by explaining the concept of fair trade since it is not yet widely recognized in Japan. In general, fair trade refers to a trading partnership between the organizations of developed countries and the producers of developing countries. For example, through the continued purchase of agricultural products such as coffee, tea, and chocolate, as well as clothing, handicrafts, and general merchandise, fair trade supports the financial stability of marginalized producers and workers, and provides various solutions in poverty, gender related issues, and environmental issues. This system allows consumers who purchase fair trade products to take part in contributing to international cooperation, raise awareness about the producers, and understand the differences between North and South. Recently, even in Japan where there is little exposure of fair trade compared to Europe and the United States, the number of NGOs and private organizations handling fair trade products has been gradually growing.

Five 2nd-year students who enrolled in the FLP Hayashi Seminar in 2007 began making preparations during summer break, organizing regular study meetings and acquiring the required knowledge to set up a fair trade cafe and general store at the Hakumon festival in November. They also organized a lecture and panel discussion inviting executives from ACE, an NGO well-known for fair trade and child labor, which was a big success. The motivation of these students did not end after that event. At the beginning of 2008, they started up a “Fair Trade Chuo University Team” (hereafter FACT) within the FLP International Cooperation Program, organizing activities as an official student organization. Although FACT is mainly composed of students in the FLP International Cooperation Program, the doors are also open to other Chuo University students.

FACT Activities

FACT’s mission is to promote, educate, and raise awareness of fair trade both in and out of Chuo University. To accomplish their goal, the members of FACT need to have a deep understanding of fair trade. Study groups have been organized regularly as a fundamental activity. There, the members circulate books related to fair trade, and report out on a specific topic.

Going into its seventh year, the 13th Fair Trade Fair was held by the Chuo University Co-op in collaboration with FACT.
(Held from 26 to 30 May, 2014)

In addition to these study groups, FACT has been mainly involved in the opening of the fair trade café at the Hakumon festival and the organization of lectures and panel discussions from 2007. For the lectures and panel discussions, FACT members have contacted various fair trade organizations including the aforementioned ACE, Third World Shop (one of Japan’s oldest fair trade NGO), People Tree (major fair trade company in Japan), and Ben & Jerry’s (known for their fair trade ice cream ingredients). These events were planned around the time of the Hakumon festival, aimed to promote fair trade on campus.

FACT members also approached the Chuo University Co-op in hopes to advertise fair trade to more students and faculty on campus. Upon hearing their request to sell fair trade products at the Co-op store, the very first Fair Trade Fair was held in June 2008.

Since then, the Co-op has held a week-long Fair Trade Fair twice each year, in spring (May/June) and autumn (November). Just recently, the 13th Fair Trade Fair was convened at a specially-designated area of the Co-op for 1 week starting from May 26. FACT members collaborated with the Co-op as volunteers, participating in activities such as selecting products, arranging the display, and giving explanations about fair trade. The students stood at the booth mostly using their lunch breaks, and provided information and answered questions from the students and faculty who showed interest.

The activities carried out by FACT are not limited on campus. They also include off-campus activities promoting and raising awareness on fair trade. At the request of fair trade groups and corporations, FACT offers lectures and trading games in international cooperation seminars, World Fair Trade Day events, and courses at other universities. The trading game is a type of role playing game, where the participants compete in groups to learn about trading. With the groups playing under different conditions in technology, capital, and infrastructure, the participants are exposed to the many disparities that exist between the developed and developing countries. A FACT’s own original fair trade organization also appears in the game, facilitating the benefits and roles of fair trade, supporting the education and raising awareness of fair trade.

Conclusion

In this article, I have introduced the students of Chuo University around me who have formed the group known as FACT, who are actively engaged in the practical study of international cooperation through activities both inside and outside of the university, for the promotion, education, and raising awareness of fair trade. My wish is for these students, after gaining an understanding of the various issues and boundaries of fair trade, to voluntarily and proactively continue to expand their fair trade-related activities (such as by strengthening cooperative relationships with fair trade groups, and opening up the study groups to more people) to acquire an even wider range of learning.

Mitsuhiro Hayashi
Professor, Faculty of Economics, Chuo University
Area of Specialization: Development Economics
Professor Hayashi was born in Niigata Prefecture in 1959.
He completed his Doctoral Program (Ph.D.) at the Australian National University, and obtained his current position after holding positions at JGC Corporation, the International Development Center of Japan, and the Faculty of Economics at Nagoya Gakuin University.
His current research topic is the spatial analysis of inequality and poverty in Asian developing countries.
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M. Hayashi, “Structural Changes in Indonesian Industry and Trade: An Input-Output Analysis,” The Developing Economy, Vol. XLIII, No. 1 (2005).
M. Hayashi, et al., “Spatial Dimensions of Expenditure Inequality and the Role of Education in Indonesia: An Analysis of the 2008–2010 Susenas Panel Data,” Crawford School Working Paper No. 12-11 (Canberra, Australia: Australian National University, 2012).
New Trends in the World Economy: Focusing on Globalization, Regional Economic Integration, and Economic Disparity [Sekai Keizai no Shin Choryu: Gurobarizeshon, Chiiki Keizai Togo, Keizai Kakusa ni Chumoku shite] (Chuo University Press, 2012, co-author/editor).
The Asian Development Experience: Overcoming Crises and Adjusting to Change (Bunshindo, 2013, co-translator).