International trade is a vital part of the U.S. and Canadian economies. But, too often, powerful corporate interests have negotiated trade deals in secret, stacking the deck in their favor to increase profits at the expense of workers.
Working people need trade policies that support good jobs at home and boost sustainable development abroad. Trade agreements should be well balanced, stimulate job creation, protect the rights and interests of those who toil for a living, and promote a healthy environment. Trade agreements must be enforced fairly, quickly and consistently.
As America’s working families have learned the hard way, trade deals without complementary policies such as infrastructure investment, export promotion strategies and worker protections will not produce shared prosperity, but only help concentrate wealth in the hands of the 1 percent.
An example of trade pacts betraying working people can be found in the North American Free Trade Agreement, better known as NAFTA. By any reasonable measure, NAFTA has hurt working people in Canada, Mexico and the United States during its more than 20 years on the books. While overall trade volume and corporate profits are up, wages in all three countries have remained stagnant. While productivity increased, workers have not received a fair return.
Opposition to NAFTA is not about isolationism. Rather, unions oppose a set of rigged rules made by and for global corporations that enrich themselves at the expense of working people. Trade should be a cooperative endeavor that benefits all of us.
Learning from what went wrong with NAFTA (and other subsequent trade deals), MTD Eastern Area Executive Board Member Jim Given lead a coalition in Canada that stopped the Canadian-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) dead in the water.
Like NAFTA, CETA was drafted in secret with no input from unions, environmental groups and many others. However, when a draft of the agreement was leaked in 2014, it contained language that would have opened Canada’s cabotage laws and allowed foreign mariners to take jobs from Canadian mariners.
Given, the president of the Seafarers International Union of Canada, created the Canadian Maritime and Supply Chain Coalition with labor affiliates from all over Canada to expose and fight the anti-mariner provisions within CETA. His actions spurred others into looking at the document to see how their industries were affected. The outcry was seen during the 2015 Canadian federal elections as a worker-friendly government took power, stopping any further action on CETA.
Following the 2016 U.S. elections, the Trump Administration earlier this year announced its intention to renegotiate NAFTA. The statement, issued by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to congressional leaders, offered few details on what specifically the administration hoped to change, but we are cautiously encouraged by the generally stated goal.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in response to the statement, said, “The administration’s formal announcement that it intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement offers potential for progress, but a good outcome is far from guaranteed. While the president has called NAFTA the worst trade deal in history, his administration has given conflicting signals as to its priorities, raising the prospect that some of NAFTA’s most problematic elements could remain intact.
“Working people have set a high standard for the deep reforms we are seeking in new trade deals and policies: We must elevate and effectively enforce workers’ rights and environmental standards, eliminate excessive corporate privileges, prioritize good jobs and safeguard democracy. This is the standard we will use to judge any renegotiation. The labor movement has been working to reform America’s flawed trade policies for more than a quarter-century, and we will continue to fight to fix a trade deal that has wreaked havoc on working families across North America.”
Renegotiation must begin with a democratized, inclusive process and proceed from there to stronger and more effective protections for workers, consumers, domestic farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, and the environment.
As stated in the first sentence, international trade is vital to our industry and to our economies. We do not wish to stand in the way of trade. We seek to make it fair for all.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the MTD and its affiliates with work with U.S. and Canadian government officials and legislators to correct the flaws in existing trade agreements; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that MTD and its affiliates will continue our call to be included in the negotiations for future trade agreements so the needs and concerns of our members and all workers are reflected and respected.
Passed 2017 MTD Convention