Democratising trade politics in the Americas : insights from the women's, environmental and labour movements
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This paper explores the extent to which and the ways in which civil society groups are contributing to the democratisation of trade policy and politics in the Americas. It explores the strategies adopted by a range of NGOs and social movements to influence the decision-making processes and the content of the trade agenda. This includes efforts to open up existing spaces of participation as well as the creation of new ones through forms of citizen engagement, democratic innovation and efforts to change the terms of debate. We concentrate on the cases of the women’s, environmental and labour movements in relation to the trade agenda promoted by the NAFTA, MERCOSUR and FTAA initiatives. The first part of the paper provides a discussion of the constraints that recent trade integration processes in the Americas pose to the possibility of deepening democracy. This is followed by an engagement with existing literatures on democratisation in Latin America to draw parallels and identify insights on the nature of the relationship between trade and democracy. The second part draws on three case studies of the strategies of movements in Latin America in their attempts to influence trade policy processes across political scales. The first case study explores the initiatives of women’s and feminist organisations in Mexico to incorporate a gender perspective into the debate about NAFTA. The second case deals with the engagements of the environmental movement at the sub-regional and hemispheric levels in relation to the NAFTA, MERCOSUR and FTAA initiatives. The third case focuses on the labour movement in the Americas in relation to the FTAA process. The conclusion reflects on what has been achieved and what future challenges remain. Keywords: trade liberalisation; social movements; civil society; democratisation; gender; labour; environment.