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NDP backs Canada-Korea FTA with ISDS provision

The Council of Canadians has critiqued the Canada-Korea free trade deal on the basis of its secretive negotiations, the likelihood it will increase Canada’s trade deficit with Korea, its NAFTA-style investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision, and in support of the Canadian Auto Workers union which had called for an end to these talks.

Today the Globe and Mail reports, “The federal NDP is declaring its support for Canada’s free-trade deal with South Korea, a move that signals a shift in the party’s economic position and places the NDP at odds with the union representing auto workers. …The labour union Unifor – which was formed last year as a merger of the Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada – has strongly opposed the trade deal.”

“The union argues the deal is one-sided and will lead to more imports from popular South Korean automakers like Hyundai and Kia without any certainty of reciprocal trade or assurances that South Korean automakers will start manufacturing vehicles in Canada.”

The Canadian Press adds, “While the New Democrats will vote for the agreement, trade critic Don Davies said an NDP government would have gone for a better deal. In a statement issued Wednesday, he criticized the government for including what he calls an unnecessary dispute settlement mechanism and for failing to win protections for the auto industry.”

The Globe and Mail article also notes, “NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is gradually moving his party’s position on trade issues toward a more supportive approach of free trade. The decision marks a departure for an NDP caucus that has traditionally been front and centre at anti-globalization rallies and opposed other Conservative free-trade deals with Colombia and Panama.”

We are concerned by this particularly in relation to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

In December 2013, NDP trade critic Don Davies wrote, “The NDP [has] welcomed progress towards a trade agreement with Europe. New Democrats fully support growing our trade relationship with the European Union… Many Canadians have raised concerns and sensitivities about the CETA; they are real and we understand them well. Investor-state dispute settlement, public procurement, pharmaceutical costs, impacts on the dairy industry, seafood processing and others are all matters of significant concern and must be carefully assessed. While we understand that trade deals involve some give and take — the key question is whether there is a satisfactory balance.”

Sid Ryan, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, recently supported the NDP’s call for a $15 minimum wage but now comments, “I guess the [NDP] are trying to temper their support of free-trade agreements with some other progressive policies as well. They’re trying to find that balance, but I don’t think they’re going to find the balance on free-trade agreements that’s going to win labour over.”

Further reading

Council of Canadians critiques Canada-South Korea free trade agreement