RANDALL GARRISON: Protecting Canadian jobs critical in NAFTA talks

MP wants prime minister to declare his government's intentions for trade negotiations

The Trump administration has signalled that it will begin NAFTA talks as early as this spring, with the goal of either completely scrapping the trade deal or making large, substantive changes to it.

In these negotiations, the Canadian government must stand up for Canadian jobs and not cave in to pressures from the Trump administration. Hundreds of thousands of our jobs depend on trade with the U.S., but the Liberals have yet to present their priorities for NAFTA negotiations. This is an opportunity for the federal government to advocate for our economy, jobs, and environment and we must seize it.

Donald Trump has called NAFTA the “worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere,” and his nominee for commerce secretary said the agreement would be a “very, very early topic in the administration.”

The president has suggested that the implementation of across-the-board tariffs, as well as border adjustment tariffs – which would have serious consequences on many Canadian industries.

Despite the urgency and how much is at stake for Canadian workers, we have so far heard nothing from our prime minister about how he intends to protect jobs in the upcoming negotiations – and how he plans to ensure trade talks with the U.S. don’t hurt wage growth, labour force participation and income inequality.

Canada and the U.S. are the world’s largest trading partners, with almost $900 billion in goods and services crossing our border annually. Three quarters of all Canadian goods exports and more than half of all Canadian services exports are to the U.S. The Trump administration’s attack on NAFTA could have profoundly damaging consequences to our country.

On the other hand, if the United States wants to reopen NAFTA, the Canadian government has an opportunity to push for more stringent labour and environmental standards to be included in the deal, and to get rid of regressive provisions like the investor-state arbitration rules that allow corporations to sue our governments.

New Democrats are calling on government to work for a trade deal that promotes Canadian exports, boosts wages and narrows the income and wealth gaps, protects labour and environmental standards and makes them enforceable, eliminates investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms, and eliminates the energy proportionality clause, which prohibits Canada from reducing oil and gas exports to the U.S., even if we are unable to meet our own energy requirements.

Canadian workers in many sectors such as softwood lumber, dairy and auto are worried and the prime minister and his government are not telling them how they plan to protect their jobs. Negotiations must be transparent and the government must be receptive to input from Canadians whose livelihoods are on the line.

Any renegotiation should fix current problems. Protecting and growing good-paying Canadian jobs is the NDP’s number one priority.

Randall Garrison is Member of Parliament for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.