Labor Provisions from NAFTA to CAFTA: Standards That Work, or a Work in Progress?

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Boston College Law School Law and Justice in the Americas Working Paper No. 2

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O'Donovan, Michael
labor; standards; NAFTA; North American Free Trade Agreement; CAFTA; Central American Free Trade Agreement; NAALC; North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation; GSP; Generalized System of Preferences; International Trade Law; Labor and Employment Law
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The emerging U.S. approach linking free trade to domestic labor protections is a practical framework on which to base substantive and procedural rights. Nevertheless, much more can be done in future agreements to improve these safeguards for workers in a way that will maximize the gains from trade and reduce the most harmful effects of development. In order to improve future agreements, the U.S. should expand access to consultations within the dispute resolution mechanism, focus complaints on core rights such as organization and bargaining, encourage the development of small independent unions in corporatist cultures, and incorporate the ILO into the dispute settlement process. Finally, the civil law systems of Central America and the Anglo-American common law system may have fundamentally different understandings of the rule of law. This difference in understanding may pose a significant disadvantage for developing or civil law systems entering treaties with the U.S., and should be better understood by both sides in order to maintain the credibility of the law and the effectiveness of the treaty.