Unifor questions lame duck parliament's right to negotiate trade deal
TORONTO—Canadian trade negotiators have “no mandate” to accept terms in Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations that would damage vital Canadian industries, Unifor president, Jerry Dias, said.
“These talks have occurred completely in secret. Business leaders may know what’s on the table, but Canadians don’t,” Dias said in a statement. “And now a federal election has been called, Canadian officials have absolutely no mandate to negotiate away our industries and jobs.”
Dias called on Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development officials to release details of concessions they have made in the negotiations, so that Canadians can have full understanding of what is at stake going into the upcoming election.
Unifor noted most of the discussion of the TPP in Canada to date has revolved around the fate of agricultural marketing programs in the dairy and poultry industries – sectors it said would suffer dramatic damage if demands to abolish Canada’s marketing rules were accepted. But Canada’s largest private union, representing more than 300,000 workers, added that many other industries would experience major dislocation under a deal as well, including the auto sector, machinery, and other manufacturing.
“This deal isn’t even about trade,” Dias said. “It is motivated by a desire to enforce a very pro-business set of rules and regulations on the entire Pacific Rim economy. Canadians cannot contemplate these choices without a full debate, with full information.”
While critics of TPP argue the massive trade deal, which will affect countries with 40 per cent of the world’s GDP, will have dire consequences for numerous Canadian industries while doing little to boost exports, proponents say it will provide a dramatic boost to Canadian companies looking to do business abroad and avoid market share erosion if Canada is left out of a deal.
Unifor pointed to the experience of the Canada-Korea free trade deal, which came into effect on Jan. 1 of this year, as a confirmation of the asymmetric impacts of free trade with state-managed Asian economies. The union noted Canada’s exports to South Korea fell 9 percent during the first six months of free trade, while imports grew 5 percent.
Before Canada participates in the TPP, Unifor wants to see full democratic elections, human rights and labour freedoms for every participating nation, strong trade balance provisions and the rejection of investor-state dispute settlements, which it said allow global companies to sue national governments outside of normal judicial processes.
“Unifor strongly supports measures to strengthen the quantity and quality of Canada’s exports,” Dias said, “but bitter experience shows that signing more NAFTA-style trade deals has exactly the opposite effect.”