On January 1st, 2020 a landmark trade agreement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), was enacted, bringing about a new era of collaboration and cooperation. Replacing NAFTA, it reinforces foundational principles while codifying crucial aspects of trade such as international labour laws. To a certain extent this trade deal exemplifies a transition from free trade to regulated trade, providing robust outlines for tariffs on exports and imports in all three nations. In particular the USMCA includes Chapter 23, a new chapter specifically addressing labour laws.
The labour chapter is largely modelled off the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with scarce yet significant modifications. Similar to the TPP, the USMCA reflects the principles set forth in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. In addition, the USMCA alleviate certain standards by creating provisions to address discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, violence against workers and protection for migrant workers.
Nevertheless, considering the historical context, ample human rights treaties still remain largely unfulfilled promises. In many cases corrupt judicial systems typically cause intrinsic human rights to be neglected, allowing for extrajudicial methods used by the police. Labour rights in particular are far more fragile and typically negated in exchange for cheap labor and economic growth. The same principles apply to the USMCA as the enforceability of provisions remains highly problematic. Leaving the means to implement these labour obligations in the hands of national legislation essentially calls for controversy. Although, these strengthened provisions do show hopes for increased cooperation and communication, both effective tools for advancing fundamental labour rights.
It is imperative to note that the USMCA can only codify widely acknowledged set of principles allowing a conversation to begin, however it is by no means enough to ensure that intrinsic human rights are protected in each nation. Bipartisan politics are typically at the source of inaction, meaning that while this treaty is a step in the right direction, enforcing labour standards and tangible action from the interagency committee the USMCA proposes, will be vital in the coming years.