Canada’s trade deal with Europe is being pushed through Parliament without proper consideration of the impact on working people or the country as a whole, Unifor warned a visiting group of Danish parliamentarians.
“I can tell you that ratification is moving rapidly through Canada – almost at an irresponsible pace,” said Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi in her speech on February 9 at the Danish Consulate in Toronto.
Rizvi stated that the proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, is all-too typical of the kind of deals negotiated when governments fail to consider the needs of workers.
As Canada has seen with the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, trade deals that put a higher priority on the desires of big companies or corporations than the needs of citizens tend to result in a race to the bottom and good jobs shift to low-wage contract work.
“Explaining that trade agreements have improved shareholder value or the competitive position of businesses in world markets, means nothing to the displaced factory worker who can’t pay the bills,” Rizvi said.
Under NAFTA, for instance, Canada’s manufacturing trade deficit with Mexico has grown 700 per cent, to $25 billion in 2015. Half of that is in cars and car parts.
One thing NAFTA and CETA have in common is Investor-State Disputes Settlement clauses, or ISDS, which Rizvi warned is a dangerous provision. Under NAFTA’s ISDS clause, Canada has been sued more than 35 times by private investors – more than any other developed country.
Rizvi asked pointedly, “Why can General Motors sue Canada to safeguard its investment, when Canadian workers don’t have the same existing protections to sue General Motors for exploiting unfair labour laws in Mexico?”
Unifor’s position is to support trade, but fair trade. Rizvi underscored this point by telling the Danish officials that trade deals must be negotiated in a manner that is fair and transparent, and with the primary goal of improving the lives of working people. Neither CETA nor NAFTA are that sort of trade deal.
“Unifor will continue to speak out in opposition to CETA,” she said.
On February 16, Prime Minister Trudeau will address the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, a day after the European legislature is expected hold a ratification vote on CETA. Next the majority of the member states will hold individual ratification votes, and in some cases referendums, before the deal is finalized. Here in Canada, legislation to enact CETA, Bill C-30, is still before the House of Commons, members are encouraged to contact their member of parliament to share their concerns. To find your local MP visit :www.unifor.org/findmyMP.