Trade and International Affairs

Canada’s unions say NAFTA renegotiation is an opportunity for more fairness

January 26, 2017

Canada’s unions are glad to hear that Canada is ready to walk away from NAFTA, saying that renegotiating the deal offers the opportunity take a new approach to trade that puts the interests of working people and the environment first.

In a statement sent to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland today, the Canadian Labour Congress points out that over the last 20 years, NAFTA has failed working Canadians.

“Far from generating good jobs and prosperity, NAFTA has undermined secure, well-paid employment and devastated manufacturing and processing industries and the communities that depend on them,” reads the statement. “While there has been increased trade and economic growth, large corporations and investors have gained the most, leaving workers behind.”

The statement, which comes out of talks that brought together representatives from civil society and private and public sector unions representing workers across industries and services, proposes nine reforms essential to any renegotiation:

  • Labour and environmental side agreements must be fundamentally strengthened by bringing them into the main agreement and making them subject to trade sanctions.
  • NAFTA’s Chapter 11 dispute mechanism, which grants special rights to foreign investors and allows corporations to sue governments, must be abolished.
  • Investment and employment in key goods-producing sectors should be proportional across borders, requiring multinational corporations to produce goods where they sell.
  • Canada must safeguard access to high-quality, locally-produced food, small family farms and rural communities by protecting supply management.
  • Existing public services, as well as new public services, such as any new national pharmacare program, must be protected.
  • The softwood lumber dispute must be fairly resolved.
  • Any new deal must make strategic and effective use of government procurement for Canadian economic development goals.
  • Sectors currently exempt from NAFTA must not be included in any new negotiations.
  • Canada’s unions and civil society organizations must be at the table, involved in discussions, from the outset.

“Canada’s unions are determined to work with our allies to ensure that any new trade deals are fair and protect workers’ rights, public services, the government’s right to regulate in the public’s interest, and our environment,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff.

The full statement is available here.


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