Trade with China
No comprehensive trade deal needed or wanted
The federal government is actively considering whether to begin talks with the People’s Republic of China on a comprehensive free trade agreement with that country, and has asked stakeholders for their thoughts on the issue, including Unifor.
We told them, in no uncertain terms, don’t do it. We have little to gain, and too much to lose from a comprehensive trade deal. As well, negotiating a trade deal with such a notorious human rights abuser would go against every statement the Trudeau government has made on pursuing a “progressive trade agenda.”
In our submission on June 3, 2017, Unifor pointed to numerous documented accounts of human rights abuses in China, and to that country’s failure to ratify four of the International Labour Organization’s eight core labour conventions on forced labour, freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively and child labour. China claims to not be bound by these provisions, because it hasn’t ratified them. Why would we want to have a free trade deal with a country making such a claim? Doing that would not be in keeping with any progressive trade agenda.
As well, the industries that our manufacturers would be competing with under a free trade deal were built up after years and years of state-sponsored industrialization, ramping up production with an emphasis on the export market. A good example of this is the massive state-controlled rail car maker CRRC, founded in 2015 and already a dominant player in the field, and looking to make inroads in Canada. As the Globe and Mail outlines, the company built its technology by requiring other companies, such as Canada's Bombardier, to share their secrets in order to win bids in China. Such a heavy-handed top down approach from economy seven times our size puts jobs in this country at risk.
Besides, Canadian trade with China is actually growing, which would indicate that no comprehensive trade deal is needed to expand our trade relations with the country. Rather than a full trade deal, which would offer little advantage to Canada, Unifor recommended that at the most Canada focus on specific sectors where a trade deal might actually be needed and beneficial to Canada.
First, however, the Canadian government needs to explore much more fully what it means by a “progressive trade agenda” for this country, and commit that no deal with China should be signed without achieving specific social justice and fair trade goals, including strong and enforceable labour and human rights standards, environmental standards, and engagement with First Nations.
To download Unifor's submission on Free Trade with China click here.