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International Trade Law : Research Guide

North American Free Trade Agreement

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a trade agreement designed to reduce the boundaries for goods and services across the borders of Canada, the United States and Mexico. While it did not establish a common market in the full sense of the term, NAFTA developed a free trade zone throughout North America. Negotiations for NAFTA began in July of 1991 and the final draft was completed by the summer of 1992. The leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico signed NAFTA on December 17, 1992. In Mexico, NAFTA became law as an international treaty. In both Canada and the United States, domestic legislation was required in order to implement the treaty. The NAFTA Implementation Act [P.L. 103-182, 107 Stat 2057] passed Congress in December 1993 and was codified primarily into Title 19 of the United States Code [19 U.S.C. 3301 et seq.]. NAFTA officially entered into force on January 1, 1994. In addition to the main treaty, NAFTA included two other agreements relating to environmental and labor issues: the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation.

The U.S.-Canada Free-Trade Agreement (FTA or CFTA) was a precursor to NAFTA. It was a bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Canada designed to open up the borders between the two countries. The development of the FTA acted as motivation for the development and eventual implementation of NAFTA. FTA went into effect on January 1, 1989, but was suspended following the signing of NAFTA. Were NAFTA to fail or either the U.S. or Canada to withdraw, the FTA would be reinstated.

There are a number of places where one can find the text of the NAFTA agreements, as well as its origins and negotiations. The Diamond Library contains numerous resources relating to NAFTA. Presented below are a selection of the library's resources which provide a good entry point for research in this area.

The NAFTA was superseded by United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ("USMCA"), which took effect on July 1, 2020.

NAFTA Dispute Resolution

Dispute resolution under NAFTA was governed by Chapter 19 - Review and Dispute Settlement in Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Matters and by Chapter 20 - Institutional Arrangements and Dispute Settlement Procedures. Under Article 1904, judicial review of disputes is replaced with binational panel review. Article 2002 established the Secretariat which has the authority to administer the trade disputes mechanisms specified under the NAFTA to resolve conflicts in timely and impartial manner.

NAFTA Founding Documents 

NAFTA Resources

To see more background and reference works available at Diamond Law Library, including older editions, please try these searches on Pegasus: 

You can find a selected list of publications below.