OTTAWA — A coalition of Canada’s largest unions and civil society groups is calling on the Canadian government to pursue a fairer, more socially just model of trade in the NAFTA renegotiations.
Today, Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland appeared before the House of Commons Committee on International Trade to outline the government’s NAFTA priorities. Freeland committed to negotiating a NAFTA that is “more progressive” and using the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as a model. In her remarks, Freeland failed to address failed to address the real concerns of Canadians regarding NAFTA, says the Trade Justice Network.
The Trade Justice Network (TJN) is a network comprised of environmental, labour, cultural, farming, social justice and other civil society organizations that aims to raise awareness about free trade agreements and advocates for a more sustainable, fair and socially just international trade regime.
The Trudeau government has repeatedly claimed that it is committed to a “progressive” trade agenda. However, the NAFTA priorities outlined by Freeland today are far from progressive, said Nadia Ibrahim of the TJN.
Freeland revealed that Canada will aim to include labour and environmental provisions in the text of the agreement and develop new gender and Indigenous chapters, yet provided no concrete details. The Minister also indicated this government’s interest in negotiating a “more progressive investor-state dispute settlement mechanism” (ISDS). This government has consistently touted the Investor Court System in CETA as a progressive alternative to ISDS, but both academics and civl society activists have noted that it does little to address the problems with ISDS.
Canada must stand firmly for a new economic and trade relationship that benefits all people across the continent, especially when facing the nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric of the Trump administration.
The TJN reiterates the following demands for a truly progressive, fair and socially just NAFTA 2.0:
- Eliminate investor-state dispute settlement (Chapter 11). Canada has been the most sued country under NAFTA Chapter 11 and it is our public interest policies and environmental regulations that have been the target.
- A new agreement must ensure stronger, enforceable labour rights (including those for migrant workers) and environmental protection.
- Negotiations must be open, transparent and democratic.
- Public services must be protected. This means excluding from an agreement public services like education, health care, culture and telecommunications, energy and water.
- Indigenous rights and sovereignty must be protected. Indigenous communities must be included in the negotiation process.
- Canada should not give up the ability to link community benefits to government procurement: it is one of the few resources we have to direct toward our own local economic and social development.
- An agreement must ensure local and national sovereignty over food and agriculture policy. This includes the protection of Canada’s supply management system.
We need a fairer, more socially just and more sustainable international trade regime. The Canadian government has an opportunity to advocate for an agreement based in these principles through the NAFTA renegotiation.
If the Trudeau government is to honour its commitment to “progressive” trade, the Trade Justice Network calls on the negotiators to follow the above recommendations. By doing so, we can work towards a trade and economic relationship that benefits all people and the environment across North America.