TORONTO, Aug. 14, 2017 /CNW/ - Canada must be prepared to walk away from the table if meaningful and enforceable labour, gender and Indigenous rights, as well as environmental protections cannot be achieved in a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement, Unifor says.
"Workers and their communities must be at the core of the new deal being negotiated," Unifor National President Jerry Dias said. "This needs to be more than just words or an opening stance for our negotiators. We have a once-in-a-generation chance to fix NAFTA to raise wages and work standards. Without strong and enforceable protections, Canada should walk away from the table."
On the eve of renegotiating talks to begin this week in Washington, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland this morning outlined the Canadian negotiating team's top priorities for the talks, often touting Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
"Canada must do much better than it has with past deals, including CETA, on labour and other provisions," Dias said. "There can be no tweaking or minor adjustments to NAFTA. Real and substantive changes are needed."
Dias called for the removal from NAFTA of Chapter 11, which gives companies the right to sue governments if regulations hurt profits. A similar provision in CETA is weak and still hands too much power to corporations, he said.
Strong language is also needed to ensure governments can direct public procurement to local businesses, Dias said. "Procurement rules are the lifeblood for thousands of workers and their communities, and a responsible use of public dollars to support jobs at home," Dias said.
Dias was also concerned that there was no mention of challenges facing Canada's auto industry in the Minister's outline of priorities, beyond outlining how many jobs one company provided.
"The unequal growth in jobs and investment in auto and other manufacturing needs to be acknowledged and addressed by our negotiators going into these talks," Dais said.
Dias welcomed the commitment to protect Canada's cultural exemption and its supply managed sectors, saying these are sources of good jobs for many Canadians and need to be protected.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future. To read Unifor's submission on NAFTA priorities, go to unifor.org/NAFTA.
For further information: Unifor Communications National Representative Stuart Laidlaw at [email protected] or (cell) 647-385-4054