New NAFTA Offers Little Reason to Celebrate: Teamsters Canada
December 1, 2018
Canada made few real gains in the new trade deal…
The signing of the new NAFTA offers Teamsters little reason to celebrate. American tariffs on steel and aluminum continue to actively harm hundreds of the union's members. Dairy workers also remain under a cloud of uncertainty; their compensation package is being negotiated in secret between the federal government and big business.
"Canada's few real gains, like the elimination of the old Chapter 11 and a new labour chapter, won't immediately affect our members in their day-to-day lives," explained the president of Teamsters Canada, François Laporte. "U.S. tariffs are still costing us jobs, and we still don't know what kind of compensation dairy workers will be entitled to. Ottawa has inexplicably chosen not to consult us on the issue."
Teamsters Canada represents approximately 1,500 workers who make steel or aluminum products, and approximately 5,000 workers in the dairy industry.
Few real gains for Canada
On paper, the NAFTA 2.0 labour chapter is superior to the original NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. However, it's enforceability and capacity to dissuade companies from moving to low-wage jurisdictions remain to be tested.
Eliminating the old Chapter 11 and its investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism is also good for the country. Under ISDS, Canada became the most sued NAFTA nation because of its comparatively stronger environmental and public health regulations.
It is unclear if Canadian negotiators managed to make any other gains. In their fight to preserve as much of the status quo as possible, compromises were made on everything from dairy to prescription drugs to B.C. wines. This was meant to provide stability for workers and businesses who rely on Canada‑U.S. trade.
"Canada made big concessions to secure access to the U.S. market without solving the issue of steel and aluminum tariffs. That implicitly leaves the door open to President Trump to impose national security tariffs on whatever he wants. So at the end of the day, I'm not sure we secured as much access to the U.S. market as we think we did," concluded Laporte.
Teamsters represent 125,000 members in Canada in all industries. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, represents 1.4 million workers in North America.