Premiers Must Reject Federal Proposals That Would Deepen NAFTA, CAW President Says



    TORONTO, Aug. 5 /CNW/ - CAW President Ken Lewenza is calling on Canada's
premiers to reject any federal proposals brought to the Council of the
Federation meeting in Regina this week that would eliminate or restrict their
legal right to establish public purchasing policies intended to maximize
economic benefits to the Canadian economy.
    The CAW has joined with over one dozen civil society and labour groups in
issuing a joint statement opposing the Harper government's proposal to
possibly expand the scope of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
by abolishing the legal right of provinces and municipalities from setting
local or Canadian-content rules, as well as other ethical and environmental
standards, as part of their public purchasing programs.
    "The Harper government, along with a number of business lobby groups, is
fanning the flames of public criticism toward U.S. 'Buy American' policies and
using this as an opportunity to push through damaging reforms to the NAFTA,"
Lewenza said. "Canadians have a legal right to determine how their public tax
dollars are spent and we cannot afford to lose that right."
    Premiers are expected to debate and discuss a federal government proposal
to effectively bind Canadian provinces and municipalities to the public
purchasing rules as established under NAFTA and seek out Canadian exemptions
from U.S. 'Buy American' policies.
    "Rather than attacking these successful and popular 'Buy American'
policies, Canadian governments should increase and speed up funding for public
infrastructure projects and attach 'Buy Canadian' conditions to the funding,"
reads the joint statement (attached below).
    The NAFTA is a perfect example of a free market policy intended to strip
away the rights of government and citizens in determining how best to manage
and develop the domestic economy, Lewenza said.
    "NAFTA symbolizes the worst of uncontrolled and irresponsible free market
policy, which is exactly what got us into this global economic mess in the
first place."

    
                      A statement on public procurement
    

    We believe that governments have a right and a duty to use public
procurement as a tool for economic development, environmental protection and
job creation. Therefore, we oppose the expansion of "free trade" deals to
encompass more public procurement.
    In response to "Buy American" policies, the Government of Canada has
announced its desire to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
to restrict provincial and municipal procurement. Such a step would abolish
the rights of local and provincial governments to support local or Canadian
suppliers, set minimum local content rules for materials or services on major
projects, adopt ethical and environmental purchasing policies, enforce
commitments to hire workers locally, or require companies winning public
contracts to reinvest a portion of revenues or profits in Canadian
communities.
    U.S. federal, state, and local governments have successfully implemented
"Buy American" procurement policies for more than 75 years. Today, in the
midst of an economic recession, it is perfectly justified that U.S.
taxpayer-funded stimulus funding should be used to stimulate local economic
development.
    Rather than attacking these successful and popular "Buy American"
policies, Canadian governments should increase and speed up funding for public
infrastructure projects and attach "Buy Canadian" conditions to this funding.
    The opportunity exists to recognize integrated industries by negotiating
managed trade agreements and sectoral arrangements with the United States.
Such arrangements could provide mutual exemptions from procurement preferences
for products manufactured in highly integrated industries.
    We oppose expanding NAFTA to cover all sub-national procurement and the
related effort to negotiate a "free trade" deal with the European Union that
would also bind sub-national governments to NAFTA-like restrictions. This
approach would drain needed stimulus from the Canadian economy, worsen the
current crisis in manufacturing and interfere with provincial and municipal
governments' authority to provide and regulate local services.
    In closing, we call upon provincial and local governments to reject any
federal proposals that would eliminate or restrict their ability to ensure
that public procurement policies maximize benefits to the local and Canadian
economies.

    
    Signed:

    Alberta Federation of Labour

    B.C. Federation of Labour

    Canadian Auto Workers

    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

    Canadian Labour Congress

    Canadian Union of Public Employees

    Council of Canadians

    Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec

    National Union of Public and General Employees

    Northern Territories Federation of Labour

    New Brunswick Federation of Labour

    Polaris Institute

    Saskatchewan Federation of Labour

    United Steelworkers

    Yukon Federation of Labour
    





For further information:

For further information: Angelo DiCaro, CAW Communications, (416)
606-6311; or Jenny Ahn, CAW Director of Government Relations, (416) 271-3489

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Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW)

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