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Unifor encouraged by CUSMA improvements

December 10, 2019 - 12:00 AM

December 10, 2019

TORONTO – Unifor is encouraged by announced amendments to the CUSMA, which clear the path to ratification of a deal to replace the damaging NAFTA trade agreement.

“NAFTA has been a train-wreck of a trade deal for 25 years, causing great harm to Canada’s manufacturing industries and the rights of workers,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The new CUSMA, while far from perfect, provides a road map to implement necessary changes in trade policy to benefit workers. The improvements announced today are a helpful boost in achieving those objectives.”

Representatives from the United States, Mexico, and Canada signed the amended CUSMA today in Mexico City, following months of negotiation. Amendments include fixes to the dispute settlement system, the removal of damaging patent term extensions for prescription drugs, improvements that strengthen labour and environment chapter commitments and a new, unprecedented bilateral ‘rapid response’ mechanism for investigating and policing labour violations.

While CUSMA improves rules of origin for auto manufacturing, there are outstanding questions on how new requirements on North American steel and aluminum will apply. Reports suggest that primary aluminum slabs sourced from countries like China could qualify as North American content.

“The 70 per cent regional content provisions for steel and aluminum were intended to bolster North American production, not production from oversees suppliers,” said Dias. “There can be no loopholes that undermine the integrity of the deal. The North American aluminum industry is large enough to supply the needs of the domestic auto industry now and well into the future.”

Unifor is disappointed that CUSMA also fails to address punitive tariffs imposed on Canadian softwood, which have left entire communities struggling as the industry awaits international tribunal rulings.

The union will closely examine the new CUSMA over the coming days to review specific language and further analyze the impact of the agreement.

“Like any trade deal the devil will be in the details,” Dias stressed. “Specifically, we will be looking at the enforceability of key requirements to see if the deal can live up to its promise once enacted.”

Media inquiries call Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org or 416-896-3303 (cell).