What are issues of social justice and equity between Australia and other countries in relation to trade?
One very significant issue related to social justice and Australia has emerged in the last few months. This is Australia's role in the global refugee crisis that has gripped much of the developed world.
Though Australia has historically accepted refugees in large numbers, many in that country now object to receiving so-called "boat" refugees, many of which try to come into the country from India. As a result, the Australian military intercepts many of these migrants and sends them to a holding facility on one of a few islands. One of these facilities is located on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Most, if not all, are not allowed to enter Australia. This has become an especially urgent issue as conflicts and disasters in such regions as Sri Lanka and especially Myanmar, where the Rohingya people are fleeing ethnic cleansing, are worsening.
This is in addition to the Syrian refugee crisis—the Australian government, despite some internal opposition, has agreed to accept a group of asylum-seekers from that war-torn country. So, like the nations of Europe, the United States, and many other nations, Australia is grappling with the issue of international refugees, and has chosen to take a generally hard line against accepting them.
This issue is indirectly related to trade in two ways. First, many who fear the influx of immigrants also support protectionist trade legislation. Second, Australia, as one of the richest nations in the region, maintains trade relationships with many nations in the region that some argue contribute to the poverty that in turn leads many to seek to come to Australia.
Australia has been referred to as a trading nation because it engages in both export and import activities. As of the year 2000, Australian exports made up 19% of the country’s GDP with most of the products making their way to Asia.
The Australian administration admits that free trade plays an important role in providing growth and development opportunities to developing countries. Thus, Australia positions itself against protectionism, which in turn opens its space to trade with its international partners.
To ensure that social justice and equity are achieved through trade it is imperative that the rich countries open up the trade spaces instead of increasing handouts and donor aid to developing countries. Thus, developed countries are faced with challenges in prioritizing their activities towards building the self-sustainability capacity of developing countries.
Economies should also receive an equitable share of proceeds from trade in order to develop their democratic space and institutions aimed at protecting their rights and freedoms.
Another challenge to social justice and equity is the issue of dealing with countries flouting the international labor conventions, such as child labor, slavery, and forced labor.
As Australia is a rich country, the major issues of social justice and equity raised by its trade have to do with the conditions that workers experience in the countries with which Australia trades. This issue was highlighted by the recent disaster in the clothing factory in Bangladesh.
Rich countries tend to get many of their imports from poor countries. Over the years, the jobs that pay the least and that take the least skill have left the rich countries and gone to the poor countries. There, they can be done by workers who demand much lower salaries. This allows the people in the rich countries to buy imported goods for very low prices.
This brings up an issue of social justice and equity. Should people in rich countries exploit the labor of people working in poor countries, often for low pay and in bad conditions? Is it wrong to save money in this way or is it actually a good thing to buy from poorer countries on the idea that without trade the people in those countries would have fewer prospects than they do now?