In 2006, the European Union launched its new free trade strategy Global Europe with the explicit goal of increasing European competitiveness. This article explores the positions of trade unions and other social movements on Global Europe. Importantly, while Northern social movements and trade unions from the Global South reject Global Europe due to its impact of deindustrialisation on developing countries, European trade unions support it in so far as it opens up new markets for the export of European manufactured goods. It will be argued that this has to be understood against the background of the dynamics underlying the global economy and here in particular uneven and combined development. Due to the uneven integration of different parts of the world into the global economy, workers in developed countries may actually benefit from free trade, while workers in the Global South are more likely to lose out. It will, however, also be argued that while these different positions within the social relations of production are shaping the position of trade unions, they do not determine them. Over time, through direct engagement, trade unions in the North and South may be able to establish relations of transnational solidarity.
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