During the past several years, the US government has negotiated two regional trade agreements with far reaching labor provisions — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Signed in early 2016, the TPP labor chapter enhances second-generation worker rights in several significant ways: First, the TPP obligates each party to "adopt and maintain" statutes, regulations, and practices governing acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health, as determined by that party. Second, the obligation not to waive or derogate from fundamental labor rights or conditions of work is specifically applied to special trade or customs areas such as export processing zones (EPZs). Third, the TPP obligates each government to "discourage, through initiatives it considers appropriate" the importation of goods produced by forced or compulsory labor. Signed in 2019, the USMCA contains numerous labor obligations for the United States. (These US obligations extend only to the federal level, not to the state level.) Under the USMCA labor chapter, Mexico and Canada would be able to bring cases against the US for violations of the labor rights set out in USMCA. The prospect of establishing US accountability is important because although complaints against the US are sometimes brought in the supervisory mechanisms of the International Labour Organization (ILO), when the ILO finds a US violation, the ILO has no enforcement mechanism against the US. In contrast, the USMCA would give Mexico or Canada an enforcement mechanism to levy trade sanctions against the US should the US be found to be out of compliance with the USMCA and to fail to correct that violation.
GW Paper Series
Charnovitz, Steve, "The Expanding Labor Dimension of US-Negotiated Regional Trade Agreements: TPP and USMCA" (2021). GW Law Faculty Publications & Other Works. 1538.