This article analyses the way in which free trade agreements may become a new form of migration governance architecture, through an examination of the case of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). We argue that the inclusion of migrant worker rights among the labour rights covered by the labour side accord unexpectedly resulted in new forms of migrant rights advocacy and transnational cooperation to promote migrant worker rights, especially in the United States. We examine two cases that were brought before the NAFTA labour rights tribunal. While this form of activism has had limited concrete impact on improving the actual conditions faced by vulnerable migrant workers, it has had some positive results in politicising the issue of abuses of migrant workers’ rights in the United States. It has also resulted in the transnationalisation of struggles around migrant workers’ rights and the forging of new alliances between trade unions and migrants’ rights activists.

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Third World Quarterly
Department of Political Science

Gabriel, C, & Macdonald, L. (2020). New architectures for migration governance: NAFTA and transnational activism around migrants’ rights. Third World Quarterly. doi:10.1080/01436597.2020.1796482