Overview of Labor Enforcement Issues in Free Trade Agreements

Source: Mary Jane Bolle, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, February 22, 2016

Since 1993, the Administration has negotiated and Congress has approved 13 free trade agreements (FTAs) with labor provisions, and is considering additional FTAs. Based on similarity of language, these FTAs can be sorted into four groups, or “models,” which have evolved to contain successively greater levels of enforceability. This report first identifies the enforceable labor provisions in each model. Second, it identifies two types of labor enforcement issues: (1) those that relate to the FTA provisions themselves, including their definitions and their enforceability, and (2) those that relate to executive branch responsibilities, such as resource availability and determining dispute settlement case priorities. This report does not address other labor issues in the various free trade agreements, including cooperative consultation and capacity – building provisions.