Round seven of NAFTA renegotiations ended in Mexico City on March 5 with the American government holding Canada’s steel and aluminum sectors hostage in an effort to extort a deal.
“The U.S. is using Canada’s steel and aluminum industries and workers as NAFTA bargaining chips,” said National President Jerry Dias. “I’m encouraged to see that Canada has taken a firm stance against this trade blackmail.”
At a joint press conference with her Mexican and U.S. counterparts Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told media that Canada would view any tariffs on steel or aluminum as unacceptable.
“Should restrictions be imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum products, Canada will take appropriate responsive measures to defend its trade interests and workers,” said Freeland.
At the same event U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer confirmed the American pressure tactic, calling plans to impose import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum an “incentive” for Canada to sign a renegotiated NAFTA.
Lighthizer made it clear that Canada, the largest exporter of both steel and aluminum to the U.S., would not receive an exemption and that tariffs would only be lifted once NAFTA was signed.
“The U.S. is using tariffs as a trade weapon,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director. “The federal government must walk away from NAFTA negotiations if Canada is not excluded from tariffs.”
Unifor represents thousands of members in the steel and aluminum sectors, including 4,000 aluminum workers at Rio Tinto in British Columbia and Quebec, in addition to 40,000 auto sector members.
In Mexico City, Dias and Gagné joined fellow unionists from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada to release a Trilateral Declaration denouncing the current NAFTA negotiations and calling for the establishment of clear and binding labor standards to improve conditions of the working class in all three countries.
The Unifor delegation was also invited to visit Mexico City earthquake survivors in a tent city located in the shadow of the condemned buildings where they used to live. More than 500 families have been camping in the makeshift facilities for over five months. Unifor has donated $20,000 in the effort to help them rebuild their lives. To view a photo gallery visit Facebook.com/JerryPDias .