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Unifor calls for overhaul of NAFTA

July 17, 2017

Toronto– A renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement must include fundamental changes, including enforceable labour and environmental standards and the elimination of the disputes settlement system, Unifor tells the federal government.

“For the first time in a generation, we have a chance to fix a trade deal that has hurt Canadian workers and their communities. The federal government needs to make the most of this opportunity, a better future depends on it” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “International talks on trade have to go beyond a tweak here and a little change there. What we need is a fundamental change in way we approach trade, beginning with NAFTA.”

In its submission to the federal government as it prepares for NAFTA talks with the United States, Unifor’s position statement makes several recommendations to guide government in the talks. The complete submission is available at unifor.org/NAFTA.

The statement comes after a busy week on NAFTA for Unifor that included the publication a week ago today of a joint statement with the United Automobile Workers of America (UAW) on NAFTA and the auto industry, a meeting Tuesday between Dias and US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and a public town hall meeting in Ingersoll to discuss NAFTA and Canada’s approach to trade negotiations.

Today’s statement, ahead of Tuesday’s Global Affairs Canada’s submission deadline, goes beyond the auto industry to look at the broad economy and the needs of local communities, including:

• Strong labour and environmental rules, with trade liberalization tied to adherence to those rules

• Abolish Chapter 11 giving corporations the right to sue governments over lost profits

• An overhaul in the rules governing auto trade across borders

• Protection of supply management and its ability to provide a safe and stable food supply

• Protection of cultural industries such as TV, film and journalism

• No further weakening of foreign ownership rules in telecommunications, and no restrictions on licensing conditions for foreign online broadcasters

• Ensure public services such as health and education are explicitly carved out of a new NAFTA

• End the requirement to continue oil and gas exports to the U.S., even during a shortage in Canada

• A new continental standard on the use of domestic purchasing policies, reflecting governments ability to direct public procurement to domestic suppliers in fair and equitable way

“These recommendations will help ensure there is a different kind of policy approach to NAFTA and all future trade deals. It’s about time that trade helped not hindered workers and communities,” Dias said.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.

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For more information, please contact Unifor Communications National Representative Stuart Laidlaw at stuart.laidlaw@unifor.org or (cell) 647-385-4054.