The governments of North America are deep into a process of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement that was signed over 20 years ago. NAFTA has been instrumental, along with other policies, in increasing wealth inequality, job insecurity, wage stagnation and the creation of a precarious work force. It has weakened public services and led to lower regulatory standards in areas such as food, pesticides, and health and safety rules. NAFTA has allowed American corporations to challenge higher Canadians environmental regulations.
The Council of Canadians vigorously opposed NAFTA and its predecessor, the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, when they were being negotiated and we have monitored these agreements and their fall-out closely since. Our opinion of NAFTA has not changed; quite the opposite, and we document why here.
However, in solidarity with the labour movement and other civil society organizations that are hoping to use these negotiations to insert meaningful chapters and protections for workers, the environment, women and First Nations, we are watching the renegotiation process with a critical eye. We are doubtful that the three parties – Canada, the United States and Mexico – will come to an agreement that rights what is so wrong with NAFTA from when it was written more than 20 years ago. And we are very clear that tinkering with the current NAFTA will not suffice. As the Canadian Union of Public Employees says, “A bad agreement with a good labour chapter is still a bad agreement.”
The Council of Canadians will only support a new trade agreement for North America if it will:
- Remove Chapter 11.
- Put workers and their rights at the heart of a new agreement.
- Promote and protect public services.
- Include strong provisions to protect the environment and natural resources.
- Maintain the right to regulate in the public interest.
- Remove the energy chapter and cancel the proportional energy sharing provision.
- Remove all references to water.
- Maintain and expand the exemption for culture.
- Protect Canada’s supply management system.
- Protect and enhance Indigenous rights.