OTTAWA ― The president of the Canadian Labour Congress says the trade deal with South Korea signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on March 11 was negotiated behind closed doors and that it could further hollow out Canada’s industrial sector.
“This agreement, like the one with Europe, was negotiated largely behind closed doors,” says CLC president Ken Georgetti, “but as the details emerge, it appears that the government has failed to properly balance the interests of sectors of the Canadian economy and needs of the country as a whole.” Research conducted by Unifor, which represents workers in the Canadian auto manufacturing sector, estimates that 33,000 manufacturing jobs could be at risk if the deal is ratified.
Georgetti says, “In 2012, we sold $3.7 billion worth of goods to Korea but imported $6.4 billion worth in return. While some industries might benefit, overall we believe that this deal, which was poorly negotiated by our government, could actually increase our trade deficit with Korea.” The CLC has long called for a strategy that aims for balanced trade flows between countries, and agreements that promote human rights, labour rights, and environmental protection.
Georgetti adds that the agreement with Korea, if ratified, may interfere with the right of governments to regulate in the public interest, to protect public services. He also criticized the likely inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement process. “We have seen this in previous trade deals and we fear that it will give Korean companies special privileges to directly challenge Canadian laws and regulations before secret tribunals. Canadians have a right to transparency.”
“We just don’t know if Canada’s trade negotiators adequately addressed South Korea’s subsidization of its industries, and that’s because this agreement was largely negotiated in secret.” Georgetti is calling full transparency with opportunity for input from the public on the agreement before it becomes law. “We want to see a full evaluation of the health, social, environmental, and labour aspects of this proposed agreement. Canadians should not be stampeded into agreeing to a deal that might do us more harm than good.”
The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils.
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