UCL Institute of the Americas


Political Change from the Outside In: US Trade Leverage and Labour-Rights Reform in Mexico

16 January 2019, 5:00 pm–8:00 pm

Professor Kevin Middlebrook

We continue the Latin American Political Economy (LAPE) Seminar Series on January 16, 2019 with a talk by Professor Kevin J. Middlebrook.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Nestor Castaneda


Room 105
51 Gordon Square
United Kingdom

This paper (co-authored with Professor Graciela Bensusán) examines Mexico-US negotiations over labour rights and Mexico’s accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in order to assess the character of bilateral interactions, and the ways external actors can influence domestic political change, under conditions of asymmetrical complex interdependence. US pressures caused Mexico to adopt constitutional reforms that strengthened Mexican workers’ ability to form politically independent unions, elect union officials democratically by secret ballot, and protect their rights in collective bargaining. Not only did these changes affect a pillar of Mexican political economy, but they also constituted the only known instance of Mexico adopting constitutional amendments in response to external demands. Putnam’s metaphor of international diplomacy as a two-level game frames the analysis of domestic/international interactions in both Mexico and the United States. Drawing on extensive interview materials to reconstruct these negotiations, we explain how US actors induced the Mexican government to take such momentous steps after resisting for many years international pressures to address labour-rights shortcomings. The conclusion considers the implications of these findings for future bilateral relations, particularly the prospects for expanded external influences on Mexican politics.

About the Speaker

Kevin J. Middlebrook 

Professor of Latin American Politics at the Institute of the Americas at UCL Institute of the Americas

Kevin J. Middlebrook is Professor of Latin American Politics at the Institute of the Americas, University College London, where he teaches on the comparative and international politics of Latin America. Between 1995 and 2001 he was Director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California-San Diego. He is the author of The Paradox of Revolution: Labor, the State, and Authoritarianism in Mexico (1995), coauthor of Mexico Since 1980: A Second Revolution in Economics, Politics, and Society (2008) and Organized Labour and Politics in Mexico: Changes, Continuities and Contradictions (2012), and editor of, among other works, Confronting Development: Assessing Mexico’s Economic and Social Policy Challenges (2003) and Dilemmas of Political Change in Mexico (2004). His current research, focused on the North American Agreement for Labor Cooperation, examines alternative strategies for the international defense of labor rights.

More about Kevin J. Middlebrook