ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Strange Alliances

Shankar Gopal, in ‘American AntiGlobalisation Movement’ (EPW, August 25-31), forcefully argues that American groups protesting in Seattle in 1999 often ignored the concerns of developing nations about the inclusion of a labour rights ‘social clause’ in trade agreements. Too often, concerns of economic protectionism expressed by developing nations’ governments and trade unions were dismissed as elite driven and overly nationalistic. No doubt this is true. At the same time, however, I believe that activists and scholars in the developing world who are engaged with these issues also need to question their own assumptions about the motivations behind western support for a social clause. By sticking firmly to conventional wisdom (on both sides), unintended and strange political alliances are formed that cannot be helpful for workers. Instead, a new international dialogue needs to take place about how trade might be used to improve the lives of workers everywhere.

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