Law Review to host symposium on ‘Labor and Environmental Protection in Free Trade Agreements: A New Paradigm?’ on Oct. 30

The Wake Forest Law Review will hold its fall symposium Friday, Oct. 30, on the topic of “Labor and Environmental Protection in Free Trade Agreements: A New Paradigm?”

One of the most controversial issues in international trade has been its effect on labor rights and environmental protection. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement entered into force in 1994, a core tenet of U.S. trade policy has been to include provisions on labor and environmental protection in its bilateral and regional free-trade agreements.

Those agreements, which now encompass more than a dozen countries, have continued to follow the general approach taken by the NAFTA labor and environmental agreements, at the same time that the NAFTA agreements have themselves remained widely criticized and poorly understood. This symposium will examine the 15 years of experience with the NAFTA agreements, as well as the variations adopted by subsequent free-trade agreements, with a view to assessing how successful the agreements have been, and whether the “NAFTA model” should be continued, modified, or replaced with another approach altogether.

“We now have 15 years of experience with the NAFTA labor and environmental agreements, as well as significant experience with subsequent U.S. efforts to build blue and green protections in its free trade agreements,” Wake Forest Law Professor John Knox says. “Particularly in light of President Obama’s pledge to renegotiate NAFTA, it seems like a good time to assess that experience and analyze whether the United States should adopt a new approach to labor and environmental protections in trade agreements.”

Speakers on the International Trade and Labor Panel include Ed Gresser, Democratic Leadership Council;  Kevin Kolben, Rutgers Business School; Marley Weiss, University of Maryland School of Law; and Ian Taplin, WFU professor of sociology, management and international studies.

The International Trade and Environment Panel will include Dave Markell, Florida State University College of Law; Chris Wold, Lewis and Clark Law School; Howard Mann, International Institute for Sustainable Development; and Knox.

For more information about the participants or the symposium, visit