Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock
Chapter 33: Labour rights and trade agreements in the Americas
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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