Free Trade, Labour Movements and the Search for Alternatives
Expanded free trade agreements including free trade in services, procurement and investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms seemed to go ahead despite widespread criticism. And yet, first the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was stalled in Europe by a broad coalition of trade unions and social movements and then US President Trump ripped up the Transpacific Partnership agreement as one of his first actions in office.
Historically, the global labour movement has been divided over free trade. While trade unions in the Global North and here especially Europe were in support, as free trade seemed to secure export markets for companies in which they organised workers, labour movements in the Global South were frequently opposed. They too often had experienced deindustrialisation as a result of free trade and the inability of their infant industries to compete with higher productivity goods from the North.
The purpose of this panel is twofold. First, the focus is on papers analysing the alliances between trade unions and social movements against free trade agreements. Have these different types of actors been able to co-operate successfully at the national, but also international level? Are there signs that the divisions between North and South are being overcome within the global labour movement? Second, the emphasis is on papers, which attempt to develop proposals for an alternative trade regime, which is driven by a labour perspective beyond both neoliberal free trade and mercantilist protectionism.