Trade negotiations have become a confusing mash-up of abbreviations with an unclear list of countries.
But it’s simple to understand why auto sector representatives say Trudeau has put Ontario jobs at risk by signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You just have to know that 45% is less than 62.5%.
The president of the Auto Parts Manufacturer’s Association, Flavio Volpe, said TPP “could not be a dumber move.” Mark Warner, a prominent trade lawyer, said he didn’t see any improvements from the TPP text Canada rejected just three months ago. Jerry Dias, president of UNIFOR, the major auto sector union, called TPP a “total disaster” and said Ford, Chrysler and GM were also “furious.”
But the Japanese Auto Association of Canada supports TPP. And so does at least one Canadian billionaire operating auto parts plants in China.
Under NAFTA, vehicles assembled in Ontario plants can be exported to the U.S., tariff-free, if 62.5% of the value of the vehicle’s parts originated in North America.
On January 23, Unifor members in Ontario and Quebec rallied for worker’s rights and good jobs as they took action to oppose the new Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and to call for a better North American Free Trade Agreement.
The day began as hundreds of members took to the streets of Montreal in the March for a Better NAFTA, which included a demo in front of the hotel where round six of NAFTA renegotiations are currently underway. The marchers, led by National President Jerry Dias and Quebec Director Renaud Gagné, sent the Canadian government a clear message that the needs of workers, labour rights, and the protection of good jobs must be the key priorities in all international trade agreements.
“The Canadian government must stand firm,” Dias told the marchers. “Trade deals are about working class people. Whether it’s NAFTA or the TPP labour standards must be the number one issue at the table.”
The marchers represented a variety of sectors targeted by U.S. trade attacks, including paper, softwood, manufacturing, and aerospace.
“We will not let Trump destroy our economy and our jobs,” said Gagné. “We must continue our mobilization. I am confident that together we will make a difference.”
The surprise announcement of the signing of the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP) was condemned both in Montreal and also in Windsor where almost 100 members rallied at a Ford plant where Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne cancelled a scheduled visit at the last minute.
“He signs a deal that compromises auto workers directly and can’t even show up to his commitment and look us in the face,” said John D’Agnolo, President of Unifor Local 200. “Is this the kind of transparency that the Liberals are offering?”
Unifor firmly denounced the new CPTPP in a statement calling it “a slap in the face to the trade union and civil society activists around the world who have spent decades pursuing an alternative, more humane model for truly progressive international trade and development.”
To date Unifor’s work on the trade file has been outstanding. The efforts of activists, elected leaders and our staff to point out the flaws with NAFTA, and its failure to help Mexican workers have helped to push an agenda for a better NAFTA.
I have heard from workers and union leaders in the U.S. and the Mexico about how our lobbying efforts have brought key issues to the forefront. With the NAFTA renegotiations entering the final stages this weekend as the second Mexico round gets underway, I am here to continue to take our message forward.
This current round of talks in Mexico is an important moment for the Canadian government to start defining what is meant by progressive trade and how a trade deal – NAFTA or otherwise – would address inequities and help to build a more equitable society for all workers here in Canada, the U.S. and in Mexico.
This isn’t just my view but it is the opinion of a majority of Canadians.
Our union collaborated with Environics to conduct a poll with Canadians on their attitudes towards trade and the results are telling and send a clear message about what our government must do.
The poll reveals that the vast majority feel the federal government needs to secure progressive improvements to labour, environmental and other social issues in NAFTA or be prepared to walk away from a bad trade deal.
While 90 per cent of those surveyed are supportive of trade agreements in principle, eight in ten say Canada should walk away from NAFTA if the Americans reject all demands addressing labour, environmental and social issues.
And I couldn’t agree more!
Other key findings of the poll on attitudes toward NAFTA and progressive trade issues include:
• 75 per cent believe the U.S. and major Canadian corporations have benefited from NAFTA while only 29 per cent believe they have personally benefited;
• Nine in ten Canadians support the government’s push for NAFTA changes to better serve society’s interests, including higher labour and environmental standards; and
• Eight in ten Canadians would feel disappointed if the government signs a new NAFTA deal that does not include improved labour, environmental and social provisions.
You can download the full survey results at unifor.org/NAFTA. Be sure to share this important poll with others including your own MP.
Let’s keep up the fight for fair trade, I know that we can continue to make a difference!
Unifor members have occupied the Northstar Aerospace plant in Milton, Ont., halting production in a protest over worker pensions as the company prepares to close within two months.