An important message to all Unifor members on NAFTA renegotiation
For the past eight months, Canada, Mexico and the United States have undertaken to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – a trade deal that has not served the interests of working people. I am proud of the role that our union has played in driving an agenda to fix the fundamental flaws with NAFTA.
According to various media reports, there is a possibility that a NAFTA ‘Agreement in Principle’ may be announced as early as this week. If so, this announcement would be made without any resolution to many widely-cited (and controversial) proposals which have been tabled. It is unclear what form this “agreement” will take. But it is clear that the timelines for this announcement are being driven by political forces; not with any care or concern to properly fix a trade treaty that has enabled a great deal of economic and social inequity throughout the continent.
Unifor has played an active role in every round of NAFTA negotiations. From the onset of talks, our union has been a key stakeholder, and I have served as an informal advisor to the Canadian negotiating team. Our union has taken the opportunity to raise concerns clearly and consistently with government officials, civil society partners and through the media.
We believe that NAFTA doesn’t work unless it works for all workers.
For nearly 25 years, workers have suffered the consequences of a misalignment in the priorities of globalization, driven by one-sided trade rules. As corporations profited, working standards plummeted. In Mexico, specifically, workers are by far worse off today than they were before NAFTA was signed. To read more about the demands of Mexican workers click here.
It is Unifor’s view that Canada should feel no pressure to sign on to this proposed Agreement in Principle, which is essentially a non-agreement. In fact, we would strongly encourage that the Canadian government sign nothing at all.
This proposed deal appears to be silent on the issue of labour rights, environmental protections and other key social standards. There is no indication yet that a new NAFTA will eliminate special status for investors to sue governments in private tribunals. Also, it is not clear if Canada’s supply management system for dairy and poultry will remain intact or if proposed new auto rules will serve to rebalance trade across the continent.
This Agreement in Principle mainly serves the political interests of the American and Mexican governments, both of whom are facing key ministerial and congressional elections this year, not the tens of millions of workers who have been disadvantaged by NAFTA.
Canada should not give in to political pressure. Nor should Canada give the U.S. and Mexico a free pass.
Canadian workers are feeling the negative effects of U.S.-led trade duties in softwood lumber and paper industries, with many mills being threatened with closure. The U.S. continues to threaten Canada will unfair steel and aluminum tariffs.
In Mexico, legislators are expected to vote this week on a series of labour law reforms that would worsen standards, entrench the role of “ghost” unions and further erode access to free, independent collective bargaining. The weakening of labour standards is Mexico is an affront to us all.
Unifor has been a fierce critic of NAFTA, and so-called “free trade” agreements like it. The fate of NAFTA rests on the ability of governments to re-imagine how trade deals are done: to raise social standards and to elevate work standards. Unifor will oppose any agreement that lacks significant ambition and meaningful change.
Unifor will continue to monitor talks, and I will continue to update members as new information surfaces. Please join me in sending a strong and united message to the federal government to say – don’t waste a generational opportunity here and rush to agree to a deal. We need to get this right.
Don’t rush a bad deal on NAFTA
We have a once in a generation opportunity to fix fundamental flaws with NAFTA, but that opportunity is about to be squandered.
After spending months in negotiations, the Canadian government is considering signing on to an “Agreement in Principle” with the American and Mexican governments, which would commit us to a deal without knowing the specifics.
Sign up now to send a united message. This deal could come as early as Friday, April 13.
A Better NAFTA must mean reforming NAFTA with stronger labour rules, environmental standards, the elimination of investor-privileges in Chapter 11, new trade rules designed to strengthen the auto industry, the protection of social services, the preservation of supply management and a greater balance in trade and investment and a fair share of the benefits for workers in each country, among other reforms.
Canada needs to hang tough on renegotiating a NAFTA deal that works for working people. Will you support working people and tell Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland not to rush to accept a lousy deal?
Jerry Dias, National President