Mercosur and Labor Rights: The Comparative Strengths of Sub-Regional Trade Agreements in Developing and Enforcing Labor Standards in Latin American States


While trade agreements between States typically center on economic matters, the inclusion of social clauses requiring trading partners to observe certain labor standards has become increasingly common. This Note examines the strategy and success of the inclusion of labor standards in trade agreements involving Latin American States, focusing on two major agreements in the Western Hemisphere:  the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It argues that despite NAFTA’s inclusion of sanctions for labor rights violations, a model backed by the U.S. in subsequent trade agreements, sub-regional agreements following a flexible, participatory approach as embodied by Mercosur have the potential to be more effective tools for developing and enforcing labor rights in the region.