- The distinct politics of the European Union’s 'fair trade' linkage to labour standards
- European Foreign Affairs Review
- Volume | Issue number
- 14 | 5
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
European Union (EU) social actors, governments and EU level representatives have been divided over fair trade linkage, where trade access is made conditional upon protection of labour standards. This division is partly an artefact of sharp disagreement and confusion over the nature of such linkage: supporters usually defend fair trade linkage as humanizing rather than shutting-down globalization, while opponents construe such linkage as a back door to protectionism or worry that other countries will construe linkage as such. This article analyses whether and in what ways EU fair trade protection has a politics distinct from those of general EU trade protection. The focus is on public opinion data in fifteen EU Member States that allows comparing citizen support for EU fair trade protection with that for EU trade protection generally. Judging from both aggregate national comparisons and individual level information in these data, EU fair trade linkage tends to receive generally more support than general trade protection, likely due to the former’s explicit appeal to broad standards of fairness. And the political basis of this support appears to lie not only in economic insecurities associated with skill and income but also in left-oriented ideological commitments to social rights of workers and to government interventions to protect such rights. These differences have important implications for the fortunes of fair trade linkage and for the broader politics of how Europe navigates globalization.
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