The Government of the United States of America, the Government of Canada and the Government of the United Mexican States:

RECALLING their resolve in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to:

  • create an expanded and secure market for the goods and services produced in their territories,
  • enhance the competitiveness of their firms in global markets,
  • create new employment opportunities and improve working conditions and living standards in their respective territories, and
  • protect, enhance and enforce basic workers' rights;

AFFIRMING their continuing respect for each Party's constitution and law;

DESIRING to build on their respective international commitments and to strengthen their cooperation on labor matters;

RECOGNIZING that their mutual prosperity depends on the promotion of competition based on innovation and rising levels of productivity and quality;

SEEKING to complement the economic opportunities created by the NAFTA with the human resource development, labor-management cooperation and continuous learning that characterize high-productivity economies;

ACKNOWLEDGING that protecting basic workers' rights will encourage firms to adopt high-productivity competitive strategies;

RESOLVED to promote, in accordance with their respective laws, high-skill, high-productivity economic development in North America by:

  • investing in continuous human resource development, including for entry into the workforce and during periods of unemployment;
  • promoting employment security and career opportunities for all workers through referral and other employment services;
  • strengthening labor-management cooperation to promote greater dialogue between worker organizations and employers and to foster creativity and productivity in the workplace;
  • promoting higher living standards as productivity increases;
  • encouraging consultation and dialogue between labor, business and government both in each country and in North America;
  • fostering investment with due regard for the importance of labor laws and principles;
  • encouraging employers and employees in each country to comply with labor laws and to work together in maintaining a progressive, fair, safe and healthy working environment;

BUILDING on existing institutions and mechanisms in Canada, Mexico and the United States to achieve the preceding economic and social goals; and

CONVINCED of the benefits to be gained from further cooperation between them on labor matters;



Article 1: Objectives

The objectives of this Agreement are to:

    (a) improve working conditions and living standards in each Party's territory;

    (b) promote, to the maximum extent possible, the labor principles set out in Annex 1;

    (c) encourage cooperation to promote innovation and rising levels of productivity and quality;

    (d) encourage publication and exchange of information, data development and coordination, and joint studies to enhance mutually beneficial understanding of the laws and institutions governing labor in each Party's territory;

    (e) pursue cooperative labor-related activities on the basis of mutual benefit;

    (f) promote compliance with, and effective enforcement by each Party of, its labor law; and

    (g) foster transparency in the administration of labor law.


Article 2: Levels of Protection

Affirming full respect for each Party's constitution, and recognizing the right of each Party to establish its own domestic labor standards, and to adopt or modify accordingly its labor laws and regulations, each Party shall ensure that its labor laws and regulations provide for high labor standards, consistent with high quality and productivity workplaces, and shall continue to strive to improve those standards in that light.

Article 3: Government Enforcement Action

1. Each Party shall promote compliance with and effectively enforce its labor law through appropriate government action, subject to Article 42, such as:

    (a) appointing and training inspectors;

    (b) monitoring compliance and investigating suspected violations, including through on-site inspections;

    (c) seeking assurances of voluntary compliance;

    (d) requiring record keeping and reporting;

    (e) encouraging the establishment of worker-management committees to address labor regulation of the workplace;

    (f) providing or encouraging mediation, conciliation and arbitration services; or

    (g) initiating, in a timely manner, proceedings to seek appropriate sanctions or remedies for violations of its labor law.

2. Each Party shall ensure that its competent authorities give due consideration in accordance with its law to any request by an employer, employee or their representatives, or other interested person, for an investigation of an alleged violation of the Party's labor law.

Article 4: Private Action

1. Each Party shall ensure that persons with a legally recognized interest under its law in a particular matter have appropriate access to administrative, quasi-judicial, judicial or labor tribunals for the enforcement of the Party's labor law.

2. Each Party's law shall ensure that such persons may have recourse to, as appropriate, procedures by which rights arising under:

    (a) its labor law, including in respect of occupational safety and health, employment standards, industrial relations and migrant workers, and

    (b) collective agreements, can be enforced.

Article 5: Procedural Guarantees

1. Each Party shall ensure that its administrative, quasi-judicial, judicial and labor tribunal proceedings for the enforcement of its labor law are fair, equitable and transparent and, to this end, each Party shall provide that:

    (a) such proceedings comply with due process of law;

    (b) any hearings in such proceedings are open to the public, except where the administration of justice otherwise requires;

    (c) the parties to such proceedings are entitled to support or defend their respective positions and to present information or evidence; and

    (d) such proceedings are not unneccessarily complicated and do not entail unreasonable charges or time limits or unwarranted delays.

2. Each Party shall provide that final decisions on the merits of the case in such proceedings are:

    (a) in writing and preferably state the reasons on which the decisions are based;

    (b) made available without undue delay to the parties to the proceedings and, consistent with its law, to the public; and

    (c) based on information or evidence in respect of which the parties were offered the opportunity to be heard.

3. Each Party shall provide, as appropriate, that parties to such proceedings have the right, in accordance with its law, to seek review and, where warranted, correction of final decisions issued in such proceedings.

4. Each Party shall ensure that tribunals that conduct or review such proceedings are impartial and independent and do not have any substantial interest in the outcome of the matter.

5. Each Party shall provide that the parties to administrative, quasi-judicial, judicial or labor tribunal proceedings may seek remedies to ensure the enforcement of their labor rights. Such remedies may include, as appropriate, orders, compliance agreements, fines, penalties, imprisonment, injunctions or emergency workplace closures.

6. Each Party may, as appropriate, adopt or maintain labor defense offices to represent or advise workers or their organizations.

7. Nothing in this Article shall be construed to require a Party to establish, or to prevent a Party from establishing, a judicial system for the enforcement of its labor law distinct from its system for the enforcement of laws in general.

8. For greater certainty, decisions by each Party's administrative, quasi-judicial, judicial or labor tribunals, or pending decisions, as well as related proceedings shall not be subject to revision or reopened under the provisions of this Agreement.

Article 6: Publication

1. Each Party shall ensure that its laws, regulations, procedures and administrative rulings of general application respecting any matter covered by this Agreement are promptly published or otherwise made available in such a manner as to enable interested persons and Parties to become acquainted with them.

2. When so established by its law, each Party shall:

    (a) publish in advance any such measure that it proposes to adopt; and

    (b) provide interested persons a reasonable opportunity to comment on such proposed measures.

Article 7: Public Information and Awareness

Each Party shall promote public awareness of its labor law, including by:

    (a) ensuring that public information is available related to its labor law and enforcement and compliance procedures; and

    (b) promoting public education regarding its labor law.


Article 8: The Commission

1. The Parties hereby establish the Commission for Labor Cooperation.

2. The Commission shall comprise a ministerial Council and a Secretariat. The Commission shall be assisted by the National Administrative Office of each Party.

Section A: The Council

Article 9: Council Structure and Procedures

1. The Council shall comprise labor ministers of the Parties or their designees.

2. The Council shall establish its rules and procedures.

3. The Council shall convene:

    (a) at least once a year in regular session, and

    (b) in special session at the request of any Party.

Regular sessions shall be chaired successively by each Party.

4. The Council may hold public sessions to report on appropriate matters.

5. The Council may:

    (a) establish, and assign responsibilities to, committees, working groups or expert groups; and

    (b) seek the advice of independent experts.

6. All decisions and recommendations of the Council shall be taken by consensus, except as the Council may otherwise decide or as otherwise provided in this Agreement.

Article 10: Council Functions

1. The Council shall be the governing body of the Commission and shall:

    (a) oversee the implementation and develop recommendations on the further elaboration of this Agreement and, to this end, the Council shall, within four years after the date of entry into force of this Agreement, review its operation and effectiveness in the light of experience;

    (b) direct the work and activities of the Secretariat and of any committees or working groups convened by the Council;

    (c) establish priorities for cooperative action and, as appropriate, develop technical assistance programs on the matters set out in Article 11;

    (d) approve the annual plan of activities and budget of the Commission;

    (e) approve for publication, subject to such terms or conditions as it may impose, reports and studies prepared by the Secretariat, independent experts or working groups;

    (f) facilitate Party-to-Party consultations, including through the exchange of information;

    (g) address questions and differences that may arise between the Parties regarding the interpretation or application of this Agreement; and

    (h) promote the collection and publication of comparable data on enforcement, labor standards and labor market indicators.

2. The Council may consider any other matter within the scope of this Agreement and take such other action in the exercise of its functions as the Parties may agree.

Article 11: Cooperative Activities

1. The Council shall promote cooperative activities between the Parties, as appropriate, regarding:

    (a) occupational safety and health;

    (b) child labor;

    (c) migrant workers of the Parties;

    (d) human resource development;

    (e) labor statistics;

    (f) work benefits;

    (g) social programs for workers and their families;

    (h) programs, methodologies and experiences regarding productivity improvement;

    (i) labor-management relations and collective bargaining procedures;

    (j) employment standards and their implementation;

    (k) compensation for work-related injury or illness;

    (l) legislation relating to the formation and operation of unions, collective bargaining and the resolution of labor disputes, and its implementation;

    (m) the equality of women and men in the workplace;

    (n) forms of cooperation among workers, management and government;

    (o) the provision of technical assistance, at the request of a Party, for the development of its labor standards; and

    (p) such other matters as the Parties may agree.

2. In carrying out the activities referred to in paragraph 1, the Parties may, commensurate with the availability of resources in each Party, cooperate through:

    (a) seminars, training sessions, working groups and conferences;

    (b) joint research projects, including sectoral studies;

    (c) technical assistance; and

    (d) such other means as the Parties may agree.

3. The Parties shall carry out the cooperative activities referred to in paragraph 1 with due regard for the economic, social, cultural and legislative differences between them.

Section B: The Secretariat

Article 12: Secretariat Structure and Procedures

1. The Secretariat shall be headed by an Executive Director, who shall be chosen by the Council for a three-year term, which may be renewed by the Council for one additional three-year term. The position of Executive Director shall rotate consecutively between nationals of each Party. The Council may remove the Executive Director solely for cause.

2. The Executive Director shall appoint and supervise the staff of the Secretariat, regulate their powers and duties and fix their remuneration in accordance with general standards to be established by the Council. The general standards shall provide that:

    (a) staff shall be appointed and retained, and their conditions of employment shall be determined, strictly on the basis of efficiency, competence and integrity;

    (b) in appointing staff, the Executive Director shall take into account lists of candidates prepared by the Parties;

    (c) due regard shall be paid to the importance of recruiting an equitable proportion of the professional staff from among the nationals of each Party; and

    (d) the Executive Director shall inform the Council of all appointments.

3. The number of staff positions shall initially be set at 15 and may be changed thereafter by the Council.

4. The Council may decide, by a two-thirds vote, to reject any appointment that does not meet the general standards. Any such decision shall be made and held in confidence.

5. In the performance of their duties, the Executive Director and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or any other authority external to the Council. Each Party shall respect the international character of the responsibilities of the Executive Director and the staff and shall not seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities.

6. The Secretariat shall safeguard:

    (a) from disclosure information it receives that could identify an organization or person if the person or organization so requests or the Secretariat otherwise considers it appropriate; and

    (b) from public disclosure any information it receives from any organization or person where the information is designated by that organization or person as confidential or proprietary.

7. The Secretariat shall act under the direction of the Council in accordance with Article 10(1)(b).

Article 13: Secretariat Functions

1. The Secretariat shall assist the Council in exercising its functions and shall provide such other support as the Council may direct.

2. The Executive Director shall submit for the approval of the Council the annual plan of activities and budget for the Commission, including provision for contingencies and proposed cooperative activities.

3. The Secretariat shall report to the Council annually on its activities and expenditures.

4. The Secretariat shall periodically publish a list of matters resolved under Part Four or referred to Evaluation Committees of Experts.

Article 14: Secretariat Reports and Studies

1. The Secretariat shall periodically prepare background reports setting out publicly available information supplied by each Party on:

    (a) labor law and administrative procedures;

    (b) trends and administrative strategies related to the implementation and enforcement of labor law;

    (c) labor market conditions such as employment rates, average wages and labor productivity; and

    (d) human resource development issues such as training and adjustment programs.

2. The Secretariat shall prepare a study on any matter as the Council may request. The Secretariat shall prepare any such study in accordance with terms of reference established by the Council, and may

    (a) consider any relevant information;

    (b) where it does not have specific expertise in the matter, engage one or more independent experts of recognized experience; and

    (c) include proposals on the matter.

3. The Secretariat shall submit a draft of any report or study that it prepares pursuant to paragraph 1 or 2 to the Council. If the Council considers that a report or study is materially inaccurate or otherwise deficient, the Council may remand it to the Secretariat for reconsideration or other disposition.

4. Secretariat reports and studies shall be made public 45 days after their approval by the Council, unless the Council otherwise decides.

Section C: National Administrative Offices

Article 15: National Administrative Office Structure

1. Each Party shall establish a National Administrative Office (NAO) at the federal government level and notify the Secretariat and the other Parties of its location.

2. Each Party shall designate a Secretary for its NAO, who shall be responsible for its administration and management.

3. Each Party shall be responsible for the operation and costs of its NAO.

Article 16: NAO Functions

1. Each NAO shall serve as a point of contact with:

    (a) governmental agencies of that Party;

    (b) NAOs of the other Parties; and

    (c) the Secretariat.

2. Each NAO shall promptly provide publicly available information requested by:

    (a) the Secretariat for reports under Article 14(1);

    (b) the Secretariat for studies under Article 14(2);

    (c) a NAO of another Party; and

    (d) an ECE.

3. Each NAO shall provide for the submission and receipt, and periodically publish a list, of public communications on labor law matters arising in the territory of another Party. Each NAO shall review such matters, as appropriate, in accordance with domestic procedures.

Section D: National Committees

Article 17: National Advisory Committee

Each Party may convene a national advisory committee, comprising members of its public, including representatives of its labor and business organizations and other persons, to advise it on the implementation and further elaboration of this Agreement.

Article 18: Governmental Committee

Each Party may convene a governmental committee, which may comprise or include representatives of federal and state or provincial governments, to advise it on the implementation and further elaboration of this Agreement.

Section E: Official Languages

Article 19: Official Languages

The official languages of the Commission shall be English, French and Spanish. The Council shall establish rules and procedures regarding interpretation and translation.

Continues in Part Four