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The unequal exchange of Dutch cheese and Kenyan roses: Introducing and testing an LCA-based methodology for estimating ecologically unequal exchange

Oulu, Martin LU (2015) In Ecological Economics 119. p.372-383
Abstract
The theory of ecologically unequal exchange (EUE) posits that international trade is structurally organized in a manner that allows a net transfer of resources from peripheral developing to core industrialized countries. The consequence, it is argued, is under-development in the periphery and augmented productive capacity in the core. EUE thus challenges the neoliberal free-market argument that exchange at market prices is symmetric and fair. An LCA-based methodology for estimating EUE that holds constant the variable market price is introduced and tested on contemporary trade of Dutch cheese and Kenyan coffee and roses. Specifically, the exchange of embodied land, water, energy, global warming potential, and labor is assessed. The results... (More)
The theory of ecologically unequal exchange (EUE) posits that international trade is structurally organized in a manner that allows a net transfer of resources from peripheral developing to core industrialized countries. The consequence, it is argued, is under-development in the periphery and augmented productive capacity in the core. EUE thus challenges the neoliberal free-market argument that exchange at market prices is symmetric and fair. An LCA-based methodology for estimating EUE that holds constant the variable market price is introduced and tested on contemporary trade of Dutch cheese and Kenyan coffee and roses. Specifically, the exchange of embodied land, water, energy, global warming potential, and labor is assessed. The results confirm the theory's hypothesis. At a fixed market price, more embodied Kenyan resources are exchanged for less Dutch resources. However, Kenyan roses give different results from coffee. EUE between countries can only be conclusively determined by considering the total biophysical trade balance, but by calculating quantities of embodied resources per unit of exchange value, it is possible to detect unequal exchange even at the level of individual commodities. While integration of biophysical metrics alongside monetary valuation is recommended, ultimately, rethinking the structure, policies and politics of international trade is necessary. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
ecologically unequal exchange, LCA, free-market, international trade, core, periphery
in
Ecological Economics
volume
119
pages
372 - 383
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • wos:000364605400035
  • scopus:84943655755
ISSN
0921-8009
DOI
10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.09.022
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
3e25da66-e6e8-4048-95b1-5c5a5b024770 (old id 8165497)
alternative location
http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1RvjP3Hb~05wds
date added to LUP
2015-11-06 14:09:29
date last changed
2017-02-26 03:51:31
@article{3e25da66-e6e8-4048-95b1-5c5a5b024770,
  abstract     = {The theory of ecologically unequal exchange (EUE) posits that international trade is structurally organized in a manner that allows a net transfer of resources from peripheral developing to core industrialized countries. The consequence, it is argued, is under-development in the periphery and augmented productive capacity in the core. EUE thus challenges the neoliberal free-market argument that exchange at market prices is symmetric and fair. An LCA-based methodology for estimating EUE that holds constant the variable market price is introduced and tested on contemporary trade of Dutch cheese and Kenyan coffee and roses. Specifically, the exchange of embodied land, water, energy, global warming potential, and labor is assessed. The results confirm the theory's hypothesis. At a fixed market price, more embodied Kenyan resources are exchanged for less Dutch resources. However, Kenyan roses give different results from coffee. EUE between countries can only be conclusively determined by considering the total biophysical trade balance, but by calculating quantities of embodied resources per unit of exchange value, it is possible to detect unequal exchange even at the level of individual commodities. While integration of biophysical metrics alongside monetary valuation is recommended, ultimately, rethinking the structure, policies and politics of international trade is necessary.},
  author       = {Oulu, Martin},
  issn         = {0921-8009},
  keyword      = {ecologically unequal exchange,LCA,free-market,international trade,core,periphery},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {372--383},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Ecological Economics},
  title        = {The unequal exchange of Dutch cheese and Kenyan roses: Introducing and testing an LCA-based methodology for estimating ecologically unequal exchange},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.09.022},
  volume       = {119},
  year         = {2015},
}