Edited by Jonathan Michie
Ajit Singh and Ann Zammit Preface When this chapter was originally written for the first edition of The Handbook of Globalisation (Michie, 2003) the burning issue regarding labour standards was the attempt by advanced country governments and unions, particularly the US, to establish multilateral rules in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to enforce labour standards globally. This initiative did not succeed and the issues raised remain as relevant as ever, though they no longer command as much attention at the top of the international policy agenda. This slightly revised version therefore retains the basic structure of the arguments presented on labour standards in a developmental context. However, in view of the subsequent rise of China and India as major producers and exporters and the perception in the US that this presents a threat to its workers and industries alike, even the principal cause of its industrial and labour woes, this issue is briefly introduced at the end of the chapter in an Addendum. 1 Introduction At the turn of the century the US and other advanced country governments, as well as their unions and some parts of the business sector, pressed proposals to establish multilateral rules through the WTO permitting punitive trade measures to be taken against countries deemed to be failing to uphold core labour standards. Their stated objective was to provide a ‘social floor’ to an integrating world economy. Developing countries, the supposed culprits, firmly rebutted these initiatives, which they maintained were thinly veiled protectionist devices. The initiative...
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