Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock

The editors’ substantive introduction and the specially commissioned chapters in the Handbook explore the emergence of transnational labour law as a field, along with its contested contours. The expansion of traditional legal methods, such as treaties, is juxtaposed with the proliferation of contemporary alternatives such as indicators, framework agreements and consumer-led initiatives. Key international and regional institutions are studied for their coverage of such classic topics as freedom of association, equality, and sectoral labour standard-setting, as well as for the space they provide for dialogue. The volume underscores transnational labour law’s capacity to build bridges, including on migration, climate change and development.

Chapter 33: Labour rights and trade agreements in the Americas

Paula Church Albertson and Lance Compa

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, labour, employment law, public international law


Labour provisions in free trade agreements are sometimes a forgotten source of transnational labour law. This chapter examines the labour clauses in agreements between the United States and trading partners in North, Central, and South America to illustrate the challenge of shaping transnational labour law through trade-labour linkage and its mix of hard- and soft-law measures. The analysis traces the progression from trade-labour linkage in the 1980s in the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP); to the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation (NAALC), an early-1990s NAFTA labour ‘side agreement’; to the 2000 trade agreement between the U S and Jordan, whose text was the first to include a labour chapter; to US Congress’ 2002 Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which set out minimal requirements for the labour provisions in all the trade agreements negotiated in the 2002–2007 period; to the CAFTA-DR labour chapter; and finally, to an on-going CAFTA-DR labour case involving Guatemala. The chapter then describes a 2007 bipartisan trade-labour agreement between the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and the Bush administration. This shift in US policy required that Peru, Colombia, Panama, and Korea change several of their laws before the agreements entered into force to meet the new standards under this template. The chapter then notes a failure to link labour standards to the dispute settlement process in provisions in EU and Canadian labour agreements with Central America, Peru, and Colombia, and concludes by describing lessons learned from the overall trajectory of trade-labour linkage in the Americas.

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