Canadians Need Transparency from Trudeau Government on NAFTA: Steelworkers

TORONTO, July 19, 2017 /CNW/ – With hundreds of thousands of jobs across Canada at stake in the North American Free Trade Agreement’s renegotiation, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is in the embarrassing position of being less transparent with Canadians than U.S. President Donald Trump is with Americans.

“We have yet to see meaningful, transparent and open discourse with the Canadian public on this government’s trading priorities and objectives regarding NAFTA,” said Ken Neumann, National Director of the United Steelworkers (USW) union.

“Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Trump administration has publicly released its official list of more than 100 objectives and priorities for the renegotiation of NAFTA,” Neumann noted.

“It’s time for the Liberal government to tell Canadians what it wants to achieve in renegotiating NAFTA and how it will stand up for Canadian jobs, defend our key industries and strengthen labour and environmental standards,” he said.

“We call on the government to clearly detail the specific components, principles and provisions which make up what it has called its ‘progressive trade agenda,’ ” Neumann said in a comprehensive submission from the USW on the NAFTA renegotiation, delivered Tuesday to Global Affairs Canada.

“These negotiations provide the Canadian government with the opportunity to demonstrate to the world how a ‘progressive’ approach to trade policy can be used to benefit workers, communities, citizens and the environment instead of only benefiting corporations and transnational capital,” he said.

“Canadian priorities for a renegotiated NAFTA must include meaningful, enforceable and binding standards on labour rights and environmental protections – which are lacking in the existing agreement,” Neumann said.

Another key objective for Canada must be the elimination from NAFTA of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions, he added.

“Trade agreements should not allow multinational corporations to sue our democratically elected governments in unaccountable secret tribunals to challenge regulations protecting workers’ rights, health and safety, public services and the environment,” he said.

Neumann also called on the Canadian government to reject U.S. efforts to incorporate disastrous provisions of the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) into a renegotiated NAFTA.

“The U.S. negotiating position looks like a reanimation of the failed TPP. Civil society was unanimous in its rejection of the TPP as a regressive, corporate-friendly trade agreement,” he said.

Neumann cautioned the Canadian government against an “unwarranted sense of urgency” to renegotiate NAFTA, amid reports that the U.S. and Mexico are in a hurry to get a deal done before elections in their countries in 2018.

“Given the important role that the North American trilateral relationship plays in the Canadian economy, the Canadian government should not feel compelled to negotiate quickly to satisfy the domestic political concerns of its trading partners,” he said.