TORONTO, Oct. 9, 2015 /CNW/ - Amidst growing public concern that the federal government is hiding key details of the newly signed Trans-Pacific Partnership, Unifor has joined others calling for the full text to be released immediately, so that Canadians have sufficient opportunity to study the landmark trade deal well before the federal election.
The Harper Conservatives have now acknowledged that important details of the TPP have been hidden in government briefings. In the case of the automotive sector, the Harper Conservatives conceded that not all details regarding new regional content rules have been made public. For example, the Harper Conservatives admitted that in some cases the regional content threshold for auto parts will be as low as 35 per cent (meaning that up to 65% of the component can be made outside of the TPP) – although this was never mentioned during government briefings on the TPP deal earlier this week. Details of other auto-related provisions are also still secret.
"The TPP poses a massive threat to Canada's auto sector, and the more we learn, the worse it looks," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "We're talking about the potential loss of approximately 20, 000 jobs. Canadians deserve to know the details of the TPP and to be given the time to carefully study them."
Earlier in the week, the Harper Conservatives also announced that, if re-elected, they will provide auto industry programs with $100 million in funding per year for 10 years, beginning in 2017/18, to help it cope with the effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (including the weakening of content rules and the rapid elimination of auto tariffs). But details of that program have not been forthcoming, either, including whether it represents new resources (or the carryover of previous funding allocations that have not been spent).
"It seems that the Harper Conservatives are just continuing an old program that has not been adequate to preserve Canada's automotive footprint, yet trying to convince Canadians that it's new," said Dias. "Most of the funds allocated previously to the Automotive Innovation Fund have not been spent. Canada's share of North American assembly has slipped and our auto trade deficit has exploded, even as those unspent funds piled up. This is just further evidence that the Harper Conservatives are not providing the leadership we need to protect one of Canada's most important industries."
Unifor has estimated that the TPP auto provisions will ultimately threaten 20,000 well-paying jobs in Canada's auto sector. The TPP signed in Atlanta earlier this week will eliminate Canada's 6.1 percent tariff on vehicle imports from Asia over just five years (much faster than tariffs are removed in other TPP countries, such as a 30-year phase-out negotiated by the U.S.), and dramatically weakens regional content rules for both autos and parts. Under the TPP, vehicles and parts mostly made in China and other non-TPP countries would have free access to North American markets.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers, including 40,000 in the auto sector. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.