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Abstract

Labour groups in Western countries face an immense challenge to develop a progressive international response to the economic transformation of India and China. This article develops one aspect of such a response through a consideration of the past experiences of internationalism, developments in international labour standards debates, and changes that have occurred in both international and domestic legal arenas. The first section briefly examines the notion of labour internationalism and its checkered past. The second section considers the origins and politics of the North-South divide on the issue of enforceable international labour standards. This debate highlights many of the tensions in internationalism and the difficulties of using and restraining state power. The third section considers the application of extraterritorial law to hold Western multinationals responsible for their actions in other countries. It is based primarily on a consideration of cases arising from the United States. The fourth section highlights some of the difficulties that using an extraterritorial legal approach would entail. The article concludes by speculating about the path forward.

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