20 Lab. Stud. J. 30 (1995-1996)
NAFTA and the EC Social Dimension

handle is hein.journals/labstuj20 and id is 30 raw text is: 













NAFTA and the EC Social Dimension




                            Manfred   McDowell



             Opponents of the North American Free Trade Agreement have cited
        the European Community as a model of economic integration that suc-
        cessfully joins considerations of equity and efficiency in its social charter
        commitments to workplace rights and social protection. In a critical re-
        view of the EC social dimension, which draws in part on the debate
        triggered in Britain and France by the so-called Hoover affair, the article
        observes that beneath a relatively thin layer of supranational regulation,
        the EC approach to labor issues is effectively governed by the same broad
        principle embodied in the North American agreement. Rather than har-
        monization, the operative principle is a mutual recognition of labor mar-
        ket norms that enlarges the scope for competitive devaluations of rights
        and standards. In addition to the evident weakness of labor as an inter-
        national actor, on both sides of the Atlantic the terms of integration re-
        flect the limitations inherent in a social market approach to labor issues
        that is supplemental to a free-trade agenda.



      In the early 1980s,  references to Eurosclerosis,  a critical theme in
advancing  the project of a post-1992  Single European   Market  (SEM),  were
in great measure   driven by  invidious  comparison   with the  United  States.
Prodigious  job growth  in the United  States demonstrated  that Europe's  un-
employed were victims of a discriminating and complex system of
workplace   rules and social benefits which,   limiting both  the freedom  of
action of employers  and perceived  need for mobility on the part of workers,
prevents wages   from  performing  a market  clearing function.' It is an argu-
ment  which  an enlargement  of the employment   gap  with the United States
has revived  in the 1990s. The  EC  Commission   white  paper on  employment
and competitiveness  endorsed  by the EC  summit  in December   1993  has been

    Manfred McDowell  is affiliated with the Department of Political Science, DePauw Uni-
versity, Greencastle, IN 46135.
     1. OECD, The Economic Outlook (Paris, OECD, July 1982).

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