164272 Protecting Occupational Health in Trade Agreements -- NAFTA's Failure and Future Needs

Wednesday, November 7, 2007: 12:30 PM

Garrett D. Brown, MPH, CIH , Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network, Berkeley, CA
Mounting criticism of the adverse impact of international trade agreements on numerous aspects of global public health have led to calls for "labor and environmental provisions" in treaties to protect occcupational and environmental health. The experience to date of trade agreements containing such provisions, however, indicates that they have not succeeded. The "labor side agreement" of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a case study in failure -- both in terms of its insufficient components and completely inadequate implementation. Future trade treaty protections of occupational and environmental health must include a minimum floor of occupational health and safety regulations -- based on the conventions of the International Labor Organization -- and an "upward harmonization" of global standards and actual workplace practice. Enforcement of these minimum standards must include: 1) the allocation of adequate resources (financial, technical and human) by employers and government agencies; 2) the provision of necessary resources and technical assistance from the developed world to developing countries to overcome differing levels of economic conditions among trading partners; and 3) full transparency and public participation, especially by the workers themselves, in the development and implementation of international standards and enforcement.

Learning Objectives:
* Recognize the reasons why the NAFTA labor side agreement failed to protect Mexican workers' health and safety on the job; * Articulate what components are needed in future trade agreements to establish a minimum floor of regulation and effective enforcement; and * Develop a public education and advocacy strategy to support passage of trade agrements with the elements and resources needed to protect workplace health and safety throughout the global economy.

Keywords: International, Occupational Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.