agreement President Trump reportedly considers “fundamentally flawed”.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Canada who doesn’t agree that NAFTA is
flawed, but Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, is
said to be optimistic about the negotiations.
agreement to protect offers made during the negotiations, we can
still get a sense of what Canada will be aiming to achieve. Before leaving for
Washington, Freeland set out Canada’s core objectives in the negotiations:
1. Address technological changes. Freeland states that one of Canada’s aims is to modernize NAFTA to
reflect the technological changes since it was first negotiated 23 years ago.
2, Make NAFTA more “progressive.” According to Freeland, Canada hopes to accomplish a more progressive
strong labour safeguards in the core of the agreement. In this regard,
One reason that these
progressive elements, particularly on the environment and labour, are so
important is that they are how we guarantee that the modernized NAFTA will not
only be an exemplary free trade deal, it will also be a fair trade deal.
Canadians broadly support free trade. But their enthusiasm wavers when trade
agreements put our workers at an unfair disadvantage because of the high
standards that we rightly demand. Instead, we must pursue progressive trade
agreements that are win-win, helping workers both at home and abroad to enjoy
higher wages and better conditions.
enhanced environmental provisions to ensure no NAFTA country weakens
environmental protection to attract investment, and that supports efforts to
address climate change;
Adding a new chapter
on gender rights, in keeping with Canada’s commitment to gender
Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, by adding an Indigenous
Investor-State Dispute Settlement process, to ensure that governments have
an unassailable right to regulate in the public interest.
for the business community. According to Freeland, Canada will seek
to bring regulations into harmony to make it easier for business people on
either side of the border.
prerogative is sure to be a sticking point in the negotiations, as it will push
back against the Trump administration’s buy-American rhetoric. Freeland
major government contracts are political junk-food, superficially appetizing,
but unhealthy in the long run.
Freer movement of professionals. This would be accomplished by extending
the temporary entry provisions in Chapter 16 of NAFTA to reflect the needs of
protectionism. Freeland states that Canada will seek to preserve a fair
process of anti-dumping and duties.
Many of Canada’s goals in entering these negotiations could have a
positive impact on workers.
agreements, which provide inadequate protections to workers. Bringing
strengthened labour standards into the core of the agreement could mean more
protections for workers’ safety, the right to bargain collectively, and the
right to strike. These improvements would give labour a chance to have more
input and control over working conditions.
advocating for fair wages for all workers, no matter which country is involved,
could limit unfair wage competition and keep jobs in Canada.
all parties to the agreement. Under anti-dumping provisions, any of the three
nations involved could impose duties on imports if it believes they are priced
below fair market value.
While it’s laudable that Canada is open to reforms to the ISDS
provisions, and that it will seek to protect its right to make environmental
regulations, it must go further. Canada has been the most commonly sued country
under the ISDS provisions of NAFTA, being penalized, in part, because of a
desire to protect our environment and industries. ISDS provisions give
corporations too much control over sovereign entities and it would be best to
seek an elimination of the ISDS provisions entirely.
Further, there’s good reason to be skeptical of any renegotiated NAFTA, given
the negative impact the initial NAFTA agreement has had on labour generally and
organized labour particularly. If nothing else, NAFTA represents a facet of the
ongoing shift to a global economy, and for that reason alone must be regarded
with suspicion. The agreement has facilitated the ongoing
offshoring/outsourcing of jobs and has had a devastating impact on the labour
movement and workers’ rights. If Canada hopes to create a truly positive
agreement for workers, it must remain mindful of the agreement’s dangerous potential
to damage labour. If Canada is serious about defending labour and workers’
rights, it could argue for a provision that prevents work from being outsourced
to right-to-work regions or states. That, at least, would help to ensure
workers are not being exploited. Freeland’s objectives say nothing about
largely positive. According to a report,
Trump has said both Mexico and Canada were being “very difficult” in talks to
renegotiate NAFTA. With the trouble NAFTA has brought to Canadian workers,
Canada has every reason to be difficult in the renegotiations, and we can only
hope the President is being sincere on this point.