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Trudeau government puts forward weak objectives for the renegotiation of NAFTA

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland outlines her government NAFTA negotiating objectives at the University of Ottawa yesterday.

Just two days before the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is set to begin in Washington, DC, the Trudeau government has made public – in general – its negotiating objectives.

The CBC reports the federal government’s objectives include:

1- A new chapter on labour standards

2- A new chapter on environmental standards

3- A new chapter on gender rights

4- A new chapter on Indigenous rights

5- Reforms to the investor-state dispute settlement process

6- Expand procurement

7- Freer movement of professionals

8- Protect Canada’s supply-management system for dairy and poultry

9- Protect cultural exemptions

10- Maintaining [the Chapter 19] process to regulate anti-dumping and countervailing disputes, like the one over softwood lumber

The Trudeau government has failed to reflect the demands The Council of Canadians began articulating months ago:

1- transparency through the entirety of the negotiations – especially in regards to what Trudeau is conceding to Trump to maintain NAFTA

2- meaningful consultations with the general public, as well as consultations and consent from First Nations

3- removal of the controversial Chapter 11 investor-state provision

4- removal of all references to water in NAFTA as a good, service or investment, unless to allow for the specific protection or exclusion of water

5- an exemption from NAFTA’s energy proportionality rule in order to meet our Paris climate commitments

6- a North American Auto Pact to ensure that each country receives a proportional share of employment and investment, and that workers have good jobs and fair wages

7- strengthening the exemption of medicare in NAFTA to allow for an expansion of public health care in areas including pharmacare

8- protection of farmers and local control over farm and food polices

9- the right to use procurement to create jobs and local economic projects

10- clear rules assessing that trade serves communities and people, not the other way around.

While National Post columnist Andrew Coyne makes the over-the-top comment that the Trudeau government’s NAFTA objectives are “a feminist-aboriginal rights manifesto against global warming” (as if something would be wrong with that!), unfortunately the truth is far from that assertion.

A new chapter on environmental rights is meaningless without addressing the energy proportionality provision that mandates unsustainable oil and gas exports to the United States (background on this here), a new gender chapter will not change the reality that free trade agreements negatively impact women (as noted here and here), a new chapter on Indigenous rights rings hollow when the Trudeau government refuses to recognize the right to free, prior and informed consent and the Chapter 11 investor-state provision undermines Indigenous rights (more here), and the reform it proposes to that Chapter 11 provision allows for the most egregious Chapter 11 challenges to proceed (see here).

The Council of Canadians will be monitoring the first round of NAFTA talks this August 16-20 in Washington, DC and will be mobilizing around the third round of talks that will take place in Canada likely in late October or early November.