Union calls on Canadian negotiators to 'stand firm' on auto sector regulations
TORONTO—As Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators from Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Japan meet to discuss the automotive-related features of the massive trade agreement, Unifor is calling on the Canadian contingent to “stand firm” on regional content rules for auto products and other sector-related provisions.
“The Harper Government is rushing to sign a deal before the federal election, even if it means signing away good Canadian jobs,” Unifor national president, Jerry Dias, said.
Canada’s largest private sector union said the talks put 26,000 Canadian auto sector jobs at risk as negotiators meet prior to a potential meeting of all TPP participant countries at the end of the month.
In the Globe and Mail leaders’ debate last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper drew criticism for saying the auto sector may not like everything in the deal, but that Canada, nor its auto sector can afford to be shut out of global supply chains.
In response, Unifor noted municipal councils in Ingersoll, Zorra Township and Essex County, all major auto communities, have passed resolutions urging Ottawa to defend auto jobs in future trade negotiations. Windsor will discuss a similar motion early next month. Unifor is also lobbying federal candidates from all parties, asking for commitments to maintain content rules initially laid down under NAFTA.
The TPP’s content rules have been the centre of controversy in Canada since the U.S. and Japan reportedly reached an agreement to lighten the restriction.
“Vehicles would be tariff-free even if only 45 per cent of their content is made within the TPP zone, and auto parts with as little as 30 per cent,” Unifor said. “Other concerns include rapid elimination of tariffs on Japanese imports, no guarantees of reciprocal exports to Japan and other Asian countries, and currency manipulation.
Unifor economist Jim Stanford calculated the lower thresholds would reduce the required regional content by 24 per cent, allowing a significant portion of the supply chain to move out of the TPP zone, threatening as many as 26,400 Canadian jobs and amounting to lost output of as much as $6 billion.
“Watering down the content thresholds amounts to opening a huge back door to our market for products made in China and other non-TPP countries,” Dias said. “That is a direct threat to thousands of good Canadian manufacturing jobs – exactly the kinds of jobs we need more of.”