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‘Obama’s comments on NAFTA and labour are apositive sign’, says NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees writes in Straight Goods that, “Barack Obama reaffirmed Wednesday when he flew to Ottawa for his first foreign visit as president of the United States that he wants labour and environmental ‘side agreements’ brought into the main body of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).”

OBAMA RAISED NAFTA WITH HARPER WHILE IN OTTAWA “The president told a joint news conference with Stephen Harper on Parliament Hill that he raised the issue during their first face-to-face talks since Obama took over from George Bush on January 20.”

Obama said, “My hope is as our advisors and staffs and economic teams work this through that there’s a way of doing this that is not disruptive to the extraordinarily important trade relationship that exists between the United States and Canada. It strikes me, if those side agreements mean anything, then they might as well be incorporated into the main body of the agreement so that they can be effectively enforced. I think it is important, whether we’re talking about our relationships with Canada or our relationships with Mexico, that all countries concerned are thinking about how workers are being treated.”

“For his part, Harper spoke volumes by saying nothing about labour, workers’ issues or the two side agreements mentioned by Obama. Instead, he emphasized that continuing the free flow of goods and services across the Canada-USA border is his main concern. He urged the USA repeatedly to avoid dealing with its current economic crisis through protectionist trade policies.”

OBAMA’S COMMENTS ON LABOUR AND NAFTA A POSITIVE SIGN “By contrast, Obama’s comments were another sign that the new American president will chart a much more positive course in dealing with organized labour than any of his predecessors over the past generation.”

The full article, which has more on steps taken by President Obama in support of labour rights in the US, can be read at