TORONTO, Aug. 7, 2015 /CNW/ - Canadian trade negotiators have no mandate
to accept terms in Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations that would
damage vital Canadian industries, says Jerry Dias, President of Unifor.
"These talks have occurred completely in secret. Business leaders may
know what's on the table, but Canadians don't. And now a federal
election has been called, Canadian officials have absolutely no mandate
to negotiate away our industries and jobs," said Dias.
Dias called on Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development
(DFATD) officials to release details of concessions they have made in
the negotiations, so that Canadians can have full understanding of what
is at stake going into the upcoming election.
Most discussion of the TPP in Canada to date has revolved around the
fate of agricultural marketing programs in the dairy and poultry
industries (which would suffer dramatic damage if demands to abolish
Canada's marketing rules were accepted). But there are many other
industries which would also experience major dislocation under a deal -
including the auto sector, machinery, and other manufacturing.
Unifor represents about 40,000 members working in the auto assembly and
auto parts industries. Because the TPP would grant tariff-free access
to the North American market to vehicles from Japan (potentially even
vehicles with high levels of non-Japanese content, due to heavy use of
low-cost parts from China, Thailand, and other non-TPP countries), it
would cause a significant erosion of North American sales for
Canadian-made vehicles and parts.
Canada already incurs an annual $5 billion deficit in bilateral
automotive trade with Japan. In 2014, Canada imported 139 times as
much value in automotive products from Japan, as we exported to Japan.
News reports indicate that U.S. negotiators reached a private agreement
with Japan on automotive aspects of the proposed deal, without even
engaging Canadian and Mexican negotiators in the discussion. "This travesty simply confirms that the TPP negotiating process is
fundamentally flawed, and must be reconstituted on a more transparent
and even-handed footing," Dias added.
The immediate experience of the Canada-Korea free trade deal (which came
into effect on January 1 of this year) confirms the asymmetric impacts
of free trade with state-managed Asian economies. Canada's exports to
Korea fell 9 percent during the first 6 months of free trade (compared
to year-ago levels), while imports grew 5 percent. The already-large bilateral
trade deficit thus widened substantially, and could reach a record $4
billion by year end.
Other potential impacts of the TPP include higher prescription drug
prices (resulting from longer patents), restrictions on public
procurement (of everything from public transit vehicles to
pharmaceuticals), the creation of a quasi-judicial arbitration system
solely for use of global investors, and limits on future regulatory
action by governments in sectors ranging from telecommunications to
transportation to banking.
"This deal isn't even about trade," Dias said. "It is motivated by a
desire to enforce a very pro-business set of rules and regulations on
the entire Pacific Rim economy. Canadians cannot contemplate these
choices without a full debate, with full information."
Canada already has free trade deals with four of the countries
participating in the TPP talks. Of the seven others, Japan is by far
the most important.
The Unifor President also outlined some of the conditions that should be
met, for Canadian participation in the TPP. These conditions include:
Rejection of the undemocratic investor-state dispute settlement system,
which allows global companies to sue national governments outside of
normal judicial processes. (These ISDS provisions have sparked strong
opposition in many countries.)
Full respect for democratic elections, human rights, and labour freedoms
by every participating nation. Some TPP participants do not meet the
test of basic democratic conditions (including Brunei, Malaysia, and
Vietnam), and this can cause economic and trade distortions (as well as
tremendous human suffering).
Strong safeguard and trade balance provisions, to ensure that trade in
key product categories (like auto) is reciprocal and mutually
beneficial. These provisions should include measures to "snap back"
tariff concessions in the event of damaging trade imbalances or blocked
"Unifor strongly supports measures to strengthen the quantity and
quality of Canada's exports," Dias stressed. "But bitter experience
shows that signing more NAFTA-style trade deals has exactly the
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing
more than 305,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when
the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and
Paperworkers union merged.
For further information:
Unifor Economist Jim Stanford 416-230-2046 firstname.lastname@example.org