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Guest Blog: McKennirey on Reforming the Labour-Trade Linkage

Occassionally, I’ve been fortunate to publish here some very interesting original papers dealing with labour law issues.   Here is another one. 

This paper comes John McKennirey, who has a very impressive resume.  He was the lead Canadian Government negotiator for the NAFTA labour agreement(1994), subsequently the first Executive Director of the NAALC International Secretariat (1995-99), and then later the DG of International Labour Affairs in the Labour Program of HRSDC where he led the negotiation of the Canada-Costa Rica Labour Cooperation Agreement.  He also headed up Canada’s role as President of the Inter-American Conference of Labour Ministers (OAS) during key FTAA negotiating years -2001-03, and was later appointed Assistant Deputy Minister of Labour. 

He has now left his formal position with the Canadian government and has had some time to reflect on how the traditional approach to linking labour rights and trade agreements has failed.  In this short discussion paper, John argues that the objective of trade agreements should be to increase demand in all nations, rather than the present model that revolves largely around protecting first world workers from unfair competition from low wage countries.  This new approach requires a rethinking of how trade agreements can increase global demand, and new roles for international development agencies, banks, and possibly a new role for the ILO.  This is a timely discussion, given President Obama’s suggestions that it may be time for the NAFTA and the labour side agreement (NAALC)  to be reviewed.

Here is John’s paper, entitled “RETHINKING_TRADE_AND_LABOUR

John welcomes comments and suggestions on the paper and his ideas.  He can be reached at:


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