The International Labour Standards Debate in the Brazilian Labour Movement: Engagement with Mercosur and Opposition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

The International Labour Standards Debate in the Brazilian Labour Movement: Engagement with Mercosur and Opposition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas


  • Marieke Riethof Modern Languages & Cultures/Latin American Studies, University of Liverpool, UK


Abstract  The social dimensions of economic integration have become an increasingly significant feature of trade agreements, particularly those between developing countries. In the Brazilian case trade-related labour standards have not become a major feature outside of the regional organization Mercosur (Common Market of the South), yet we know relatively little about the reasons for this discrepancy. Paradoxically one of the main stakeholders in this debate, Brazilian trade unions, has broadly supported social and labour clauses in the regional context but union activists have opposed labour provisions in trade negotiations between asymmetric partners. A comparative analysis of the labour campaigns in Mercosur and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations explains this ambiguity in terms of Brazilian labour strategies towards free trade negotiations and explores their implications for evaluations of labour attitudes to trade-related labour standards in developing countries. The labour movement’s own conflicting perspectives on the trade–labour connection are a key explanation of these outcomes, reinforcing the need for a greater appreciation of the complexity of trade union views in the debate on labour standards.


Keywords  Brazil; Free Trade Area of the Americas; FTAA; globalization; international labour standards; labour unions; Latin America; Mercosur; regional integration; trade


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.1090


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