North American Free Trade Agreement

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

On January 1, 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) established a single trade zone.

North American Free Trade Agreement Resources

There is a great deal of research material available on this subject. The difficulty is not in finding information, but in sorting through the vast amount of material available. This guide will discuss a few major sources, suggest how to proceed for gathering more materials and concentrate in particular on the on-line materials that are available for keeping up to date.

Getting Started

The best, most convenient, one-stop-shopping source for the basic materials is a six volume loose-leaf service entitled North American Free Trade Agreements (ILS RR KDZ 944. A41992 N68). It is compiled and edited by James R. Holbein and Donald J. Musch. The main editor, James Holbein was the head of the NAFTA Secretariat within the International Trade Administration so you can be confident that this set is gathering the most important material.

Three volumes entitled Treaty Materials, contain not only the text of the agreement, but also all the supporting material such as the domestic legislation used to implement the NAFTA obligations into domestic law in Canada and the United States (international treaties are the supreme law of Mexico and as such, implementing legislation is not required); the Supplemental Agreements to the NAFTA on the environment and labor and the trilateral understanding on emergency actions; the Statement of Administrative Action; the rules of procedure for various committees and panels, and much more.

One volume entitled Dispute Settlement contains the Binational Panel Decisions under the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the Binational Panel Decisions under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Finally, two volumes entitled Commentary, contain several articles on various aspects of the treaty plus a good bibliography on books and articles on NAFTA with a comprehensive list of NAFTA Federal Register Notices. These volumes also include a summary of the NAFTA legislative history and a copy of the NAFTA Implementation Resource Guide produced by the U.S. department of Commerce.

Finding Books and Articles

To find other books on the subject, look in HOLLIS under such subject headings as:

  • Tariff–Law and legislation–United States (and its subdivisions)
  • Tariff–Law and legislation–Canada
  • Tariff–Law and legislation–Mexico
  • Free Trade–United States
  • Free Trade–Canada
  • Free Trade–Mexico
  • Free trade–North America
  • North America–Economic integration
  • United States–Foreign economic relations–Mexico
  • Mexico–Foreign economic relations–United States
  • Environmental protection–Mexico
  • Environmental protection–Canada
  • Canada–Commercial policy
  • Mexico–Commercial policy
  • North America–Commercial treaties
  • Commercial treaties–North America

Simply type: “su Free Trade-Mexico” to find every book or document given that subject tracing in the HOLLIS catalog. As you can see, by rearranging these subject headings in many ways, and by trying numerous variations, you will find a great deal of material.

For law review articles, you should use the Index to Legal Periodicals which is also on Westlaw and Lexis), Legaltrac, which is also on Westlaw and Lexis, Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals and the Legal Journals Index which is on Westlaw. If you are looking for more political or policy articles rather than law review articles, it might be a good idea to try PAIS (Public Affairs and Information Service) or CIAO (Columbia International Affairs Online). Articles about business aspects of NAFTA can be found on ABInform.

Because you will find more material than you can imagine, we suggest that you start with a good selective bibliography such as the one in Holbein and then search for later material by using a date delimiter. For example: “su Canada-commercial policy//yr>1993” would find all entries published after 1993.

Finding the Latest Information

Now that you have the relevant books and articles for your research your next step is to find the latest information. There are several excellent newsletters and loose-leaf services available.

International Trade Reporter. Current Reports. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Affairs, 1984- Weekly. Also on Lexis and Westlaw, this is excellent for following developments on NAFTA. Every week there is a section devoted to NAFTA, including information on NAFTA activity in Mexico and Canada.

There is also a daily version, International Trade Daily is updated–as you might expect–every morning and is available electronically on LEXIS and WESTLAW . This daily tracks congressional trade action, activities of the Departments of Commerce, State, etc., along with ITC rulings and decisions in federal and state courts.

Inside U.S. Trade. Washington, D.C.: Inside Washington Publishers, 1983- (ILS HF 3000.I57)
Very expensive weekly newsletter which all the trade specialists read. They must have moles all over official Washington to come up with information before it has been released by the government.

Free Trade Update. Montreal; Boston, MA: Blais, 1990- . This is a bimonthly newsletter which contains summaries and status of panel decisions and pending cases, laws, regulations. It is part of the service in Bernier, I. & B.Lapointe.

Accord de Libre- Echange entre le Canada et les Etats-Unis Annote / Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States Annotated. Free Trade Observer. A monthly newsletter which is part of the Free Trade Law Reporter. Don Mills, Ontario: Published for CCH International by CCH Canada Ltd., 1989- (ILS RR KF 6668.C32 1988 F745 1989).
The loose-leaf service is excellent, and provides many more Canadian citations. In addition to NAFTA developments, the monthly newsletter has a more Canadian perspective and has a section dealing with related Mexican laws and documents.

Latin American Regional Reports. Mexico & NAFTA Report. London, England: Latin American Newsletters, 1993- (Widener: WID-LC F1421.L37 Current issues: Periodical Room).
Available on WESTLAW and NEXIS. Indexed in Legal Resource Index. This publisher offers an excellent range of newsletters dealing with Latin America. They are all of excellent quality and do a good job of covering the information from the Mexican perspective.

Business America. Washington, DC: G.P.O., 1978- . Biweekly. (ILS HF 1.B863)
This is issued by the International Trade Administration and news is usually here before it is in NAFTA Review. It is particularly good for specific industry analysis.

NAFTA Review. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Trade Representative, (ILS V/F)
While this doesn’t come out very regularly, it can be useful, but don’t rely on it for very recent information.

Whom to Call

As far as I’m concerned, the best research tool is the telephone. When it comes to NAFTA, there are an extraordinary number of experts available to help you with specific industry information or to ask for documents.

U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of NAFTA has prepared a truly superior guide to these experts. It is entitled the NAFTA Implementation Resource Guide: Where to Go for Answers on NAFTA Implementation. This guide is available on the Web ( As mentioned earlier, the guide is also reproduced in the Commentary volume of Holbein’s North American Free Trade Agreements. This 27-page document lists every conceivable government agency and government expert along with telephone numbers of who to call for answers to your questions.

The guide is not limited to U.S. agencies; whenever appropriate, it also gives you a Canadian or Mexican source for similar information. It is so good that there really is no need to look further. Nonetheless, if you want to update the Resource Guide or one of the numbers in the guide has changed, you can call the NAFTA Facts System ( at (202) 482-4464 or (800) 872-8723.

NAFTA Online

There are several excellent sites on the Web for finding NAFTA materials. I’ll limit myself to describing just a few of the best sites which offer links to the most useful other sites.

  • The NAFTA Secretariat, which is comprised of the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican Sections, is responsible for the administration of the dispute settlement provisions of the Agreement. Each section maintains its own Web site but they can all be reached from the Secretariat’s site: Here you can find all the decisions and reports, the quarterly status reports, texts and connections to related Web sites.
  • NAFTANET is a commercial site and is a good place to begin if you are looking for business news and developments or contact information. NAFTANET’s address is

Lexis & Westlaw

Although I have already mentioned Westlaw and LEXIS several times for specific titles, there are still several additional resources in each database.

On WESTLAW you will find the Arnold and Porter legislative history. NAFTA contains documents as they are released by the Office of the Trade Representative (beginning with August 1992). It contains all the Binational Panel decisions as the NAFTA Secretariat in Washington releases them. It contains not only the NAFTA Panel decisions but all the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement panel decisions as well. This database is far more timely and complete than any paper publication.

Additionally, there are several other useful news publications in WESTLAW, such as the Mexican Business Monthly, Mexico Service, and North American Report on Free Trade.

LEXIS has a collection of panel decisions as well, but it is not as complete as WESTLAW. It only contains decisions from April 1995. The complete NAFTA text with Annexes and Supplemental Agreements can be found at INTLAW: NAFTA.


Primary Legal Materials

Text of NAFTA

  • North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act of 1993, Pub. L. No. 103-182, 1993 USCCAN (107 Stat.) 2057. Legislative History at 2057.
  • Canada. NAFTA text: final version, including supplemental agreements. Chicago, Ill.: Commerce Clearing House, 1994.
  • NAFTA: final text, summary, legislative history and implementation directory / [edited by] James R. Holbein and Donald J. Musch. New York; Oceana Publications, 1994.
  • NAFTA Law and Legislative History/ Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Customs (
  • Arnold & Porter Legislative History: North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act/ Westlaw


It is important to remember that this is an Agreement that does not stand alone. The rulings of panels on the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) have been incorporated into NAFTA, therefore the rulings of all three Panels are important.

NAFTA Panel Decisions are available online at the NAFTA Secretariat ( and the OAS Trade Division ( They are also available on Lexis (INTLAW;NAFDEC) and Westlaw (NAFTA-BIP).

FTA Panel Decisions are available from the various Secretariats (Canada, Mexico, U.S.). They are available from the:

United States NAFTA Secretariat, U.S. Section, Room 2061 14th and Constitution Aves., N.W., Washington, DC 20230 Tel: (202)482-5438 Fax: (202)482-1048.

They will send you a copy of a specific decision when you ask for it. They will also send you a masterlist of all the panel reviews from the beginning of the U.S. Canada FTA to the present, which they update on a quarterly basis.

Summaries are published in the Federal Register.

The best paper source is the Dispute Settlements volumes of the North American Free Trade Agreements loose-leaf service mentioned on the first page.

GATT Decisions

  • Basic Instruments and Selected Documents (BISD). Geneva, Switzerland: World Trade Organization, 1953- . Only selected decisions are published here, and the most complete set of panel decisions is only available electronically on LEXIS and WESTLAW.
  • Adopted Panel Reports Within the Framework of GATT 1947/ OAS Trade Unit (

Basic Treatises on NAFTA

  • Abbott, Frederick M. Law and policy of regional integration: The NAFTA and western hemispheric integration in the World Trade Organization system. Dordrecht; Boston: M. Nijhoff Publishers, 1995.
  • Folsom, Ralph Haughwout. Understanding NAFTA and its international business implications. New York: M. Bender/Irwin, 1996.
  • Glick, Leslie Alan. Understanding the North American Free Trade Agreement: Legal and Business Consequences of NAFTA. 2nded. Deventer; Boston: Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, 1994.
  • NAFTA and Beyond: a New Framework for Doing Business in the Americas / Editors and contributors, Joseph J. Norton, Thomas L. Bloodworth; editorial coordinator, Terry K. Pennington. Dordrecht; Boston: M. Nijhoff, 1995.

United States beneficies from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico support more than three million American jobs and U.S. trade with NAFTA partners has unlocked opportunity for millions of Americans by supporting Made-in-America jobs and exports.

As the United StatesÂ’ two largest export markets, Canada and Mexico buy more Made-in-America goods and services than any other countries in the world. Since NAFTAÂ’s implementation, U.S. states like Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and many others have seen a surge in exports across North American borders.

  • NAFTA and American Jobs: For over 30 out of the 50 States, Canada or Mexico rank as the first or second largest export market. Many American small business exporterÂ’s first foreign customers are in Canada or Mexico and under NAFTA, U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico have supported over 140,000 small and medium-sized businesses.
  • NAFTA and Manufacturing: Since its entry into force, U.S. manufacturing exports to NAFTA have increased 258% and the United States maintains a growing manufacturing trade surplus with Canada and Mexico. American exports of computer and electronic products, furniture, paper, and fabricated metals have all more than tripled since NAFTA implementation.
  • NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership: The Trans-Pacific Partnership allows us to bring NAFTA into the 21st Century for the benefit of working families in America. Following the great progress in U.S. trade policy since NAFTA was implemented, the TPP will help the U.S. address environmental challenges like wildlife trafficking and illegal fishing, respond to new developments in global trade, such as the growth of the digital economy, and reinforce the U.S. commitment to upholding cutting-edge labor and environmental standards to level the playing field for American workers.
  • NAFTA and the Trade Balance: For services and many categories of goods, the United States maintains a trade surplus with the NAFTA countries.The largest factor affecting the trade balance with NAFTA countries is the importation of fossil fuels and their byproducts. If those products are excluded, there is no deficit. In fact, the United States has a large and growing trade surplus in goods, including agriculture and manufactured goods, as well as in services.
  • NAFTA imports have increased the competitiveness of American businesses. Nearly 60 percent of US total goods imports from Canada and Mexico are used in the production of Made-in-America goods and services.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement, abbreviated as NAFTA, is a regional free trade area made up of:

Canada (CA) Mexico (MX) United States (US)

The agreement, which entered into force on 1 January 1994, seeks to eliminate trade barriers and faciliate the cross-border movement of goods and services. Dispute settlement is handled by the NAFTA Secretariat, which has a branch in each of the three countries.

North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Union


See Also

  • International Organization
  • Foreign Relations
  • Intergovernmental Organization
  • Regional Organization
  • Regional Integration


See Also



Further Information

NAFTA Secretariat

See Also

Andean Pact



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