The world economic system remains dominated by the USA, which continues to outpunch its weight in terms of population and physical size. The NAFTA trade agreement linking the USA with Canada and Mexico has allowed for the free flow of goods and services across the region since 1994. However, in 2017 the USA signalled that it wished to re-establish stricter controls, particularly on imports.
The legal systems of Canada, Mexico and the USA are well developed and generally progressive. However, enforcement is generally low in Mexico and in the USA many legal rights are influenced by traditional constitutional rights that set it apart from other modern, western jurisdictions. The federal system is also a complicating factor in both the USA and Canada – leading to significant disparities across each country.
Trade unions have differing significance in all three countries. In Mexico, where a trades union can be formed with just 20 people, there is a big difference between working with a union start up and one generally recognized and part of the Confederación de Trabajadores Mexicanos. In Canada unionization stands at 28% of the working population. Although this is well down on the 37.6% recorded in 1981, it remains high by international standards and collective agreements remain an important aspect of wage determination. In the USA unions account for only one in ten workers and their members are principally in the public sector. However, where they exist, wage and salary levels tend to be 10-30% higher than in non-unionised organisations.