Building a Better, More Balanced NAFTA

Sisters and brothers,

As most of you know, the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States are just over one month away from starting talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

NAFTA hasn’t been good for workers or to Canada, despite what corporate and government cheerleaders say. In fact, NAFTA and other so-called “free trade agreements” haven’t been good to workers anywhere, right across the continent. The promises of prosperity didn’t materialize as advertised. U.S. and Canadian manufacturing has been hammered. Wage growth has barely kept up with inflation. Mexican living standards are as poor, if not worse, than before NAFTA was signed.

While some are afraid at the prospect of reopening this bad trade deal, our union welcomes the opportunity. This is the first chance we’ve had in a generation to fix NAFTA – and we are going to take full advantage of it.

I’ve been public about my views too. Meaningful changes to NAFTA won’t be made by small twists and tweaks, as I noted in a recent interview with BNN (watch it here). And making NAFTA look more like the hated Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the U.S. hopes to do, won’t cut it either.

Fixing NAFTA means thinking differently. It means boldly resetting our priorities on trade. It means raising standards for workers, not trampling on them. It also means setting a new benchmark to define what a truly “fair” and “progressive” trade agenda looks like. The kind of trade deals that Canada has right now, just don’t cut it.

As negotiations near, our union has laid out a set of initial recommendations for Canada’s negotiating team. You can find those in our submission to Global Affairs Canada, attached. To help share our recommendations with co-workers, friends and family we have also produced a short, one-page summary sheet which you can find here. Of course, we’ll have more to say as negotiations get going, and new issues emerge.

Most importantly, I want you to get ready. There’ll be a lot more talk about trade at our upcoming Canadian Council in Winnipeg, and I am excited to talk with you about a plan of action and next steps. Unifor will be leading the charge for a fair trade future. And we need all local unions and members fully engaged to send a message to the federal government.

Keep up the great work sisters and brothers.

In solidarity,

Jerry Dias, National President