March 2, 2018
I am certain you have been following the various trade disputes initiated by the United States Government against Canada over the past year as closely as I have. I think we both share the view that the global trade system is in need of major reform – and that trade rules, including in NAFTA, have hurt working people, in all countries. Over past decades, it has been our movement that has relentlessly shone a light of the negative effects of bad trade deals. Today there is an undeniable opportunity to change the channel on “free trade”, and imagine something better for workers – rooted in our joint solidarity.
To say that I was disappointed in your comments regarding President Trump’s decision to impose new tariffs on Canadian-made steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) imports is an understatement.
Our nations have a long history of mutually-beneficial trade and economic cooperation. To suggest that Canadian steel and aluminum imports should be penalized under the guise of a national security threat is, quite frankly, laughable. To justify this decision as a way to level the playing field with China – despite the fact that it negatively affects Canada more than any other nation in the world – is irresponsible. You need to understand that this decision will result in added pain and hardship for tens of thousands of workers across Canada and the Province of Quebec.
In your words, you referred to the President’s decision as “great first step toward addressing trade cheating.” You suggested that the AFL-CIO would “continue to work with the administration on rewriting trade rules to benefit working people.” You made no allowances in your statement about the unique relationship between our nations; about our shared interests in fair trade. You made no mention of the fact that AFL-CIO’s own affiliates represent hundreds of thousands of Canadians, which is telling of the disregard your federation has shown for our country and its workers as it is insulting. You failed to recognize that this is just the latest in a string of U.S. trade decisions that have taken direct aim at Canadian workers, including softwood lumber, aerospace, newsprint, supercalendered paper, and others.
To speak out in solidarity with a President who has proven himself entirely unworthy of the progressive labour movement’s support, rather than fellow working Canadians is deeply concerning. As Canadian workers now brace for another series of unwarranted trade penalties levied by your government I urge you to immediately clarify your public comments on this matter and to take steps to ensure Canadian workers are not unfairly punished by this decision.
I would be happy to discuss this matter with you further.