Labour History Review

The Limits of Embedded Liberalism: TUC Strategies to Influence the Multi-Fibre Arrangement and the GATT Social Clause, 1973–1994

Labour History Review (2018), 83, (2), 125–146.


This article compares how the strategy of the Trades Union Congress’ (TUC) attempts to influence the Multi-Fibre Arrangement and implement a ‘social clause’ into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) changed between the Tokyo and the Uruguay rounds of negotiations. Based on internal TUC documents, this article specifically focuses on the UK textile industry. The article critiques and historicizes the TUC’s strategies to influence GATT negotiations in a period of enormous economic and political change. In addition to the limitations of the TUC’s own strategies, the economic shift from broadly embedded liberal to neo-liberal economic hegemony is cited as a crucial factor in the TUC’s declining influence. By studying the TUC’s strategies and alliances at the national, European, and transnational level, it is revealed that it was unprepared and slow to react to this structural shift and clung to idealized notions of the historic post-war ‘consensus’ that were fast becoming obsolete.

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Author details

Waterman, Andrew