Degrowth has enjoyed an increasing attention in academia with more than 150 peer-reviewed publications over the last 8 years. Trade, however, remains a grey area. This article aims to explore the implications of degrowth for long-distance trade, using the multifaceted perspectives and disciplines which the term binds together. From a political ecology angle growth in the South has taken place at the cost of ‘dirty’ and material intensive production, allowing that richer countries specialize in clean/material extensive production. In terms of ecological economics the flow of primary commodities at the global level has been taking place from poor to rich countries, so that Southern (Northern) countries have become net exporters (importers) of primary products (Muradian and Martinez-Alier 2001). In terms of democracy/social justice there is a transfer of environmental costs from the Global North to the Global South (Martinez-Alier and O’Connor, 1996).
What proposals on trade could we imagine in the framework of degrowth, given it is impossible to talk about a reduction of long-distance trade without considering the diverse needs of export-dependent communities in the Global South, and reflect upon their imaginaries of social justice? It is impossible to talk about a reduction of long-distance trade without dealing with a number of internal contradictions (between consumption-based social status and concerns with environmental justice) of consumers in the Global North; or with the features of the external regime with its inherent structures of power. There is no single point of departure, but multiple (sometimes mutually contradictory) paths which merit exploration.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „What are the degrowth implications for long-distance trade?“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.