Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) includes a novel feature in the agreement’s dispute settlement provisions: the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (RRM). The stated purpose of the RRM is to ensure the remediation of a denial of collective bargaining rights for workers in certain covered facilities. Its novelty is that it does not follow the typical labor claims processes as found in previous trade agreements, nor is it structured like traditional state-to-state dispute settlement. Primarily, it provides a means to take swift action against a facility when the complainant deems that a denial of specific labor rights is taking place. Essentially, it is an expedited process that targets sanctions at specific facilities instead of the government. While the USMCA was negotiated under the President Donald J. Trump administration, it has become a key feature of the Biden administration’s “worker-centric trade policy.” The results, however, are mixed, and raise serious questions about its implementation and the mechanism’s impact on Mexico’s labor reforms. This Article examines the design and motivation for the RRM, as well as how it has been used to date. The evidence reveals that any claims of the mechanism’s success are premature and, consequently, misleading—with long-standing implications for future U.S. trade deals.