Revamped NAFTA could improve trade: premier
Premier Kathleen Wynne said a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is an opportunity to improve trade relations for Ontario, and players in the province’s auto industry agree.
The United States officially served notice Thursday of its intention to renegotiate the agreement, triggering a 90-day consultation window before starting talks late this summer with Canada and Mexico.
Unifor president Jerry Dias said Friday he has already met with Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
“There’s a real recognition that Canada is not the problem in the trade agreement,” Dias said of his discussions with Ross. Rather there’s a need to change labour standards in Mexico to even the playing field.
The average wage in a Mexican assembly plant is $6 an hour, Dias said. In parts plants, it’s $3 an hour.
“They can’t even afford the cars they are making,” he said, calling NAFTA, in its current form, “a colossal disaster.”
The president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association of Canada, said NAFTA works for the auto industry, but there is room for improvement.
“NAFTA works for us right now,” Flavio Volpe said. But when the agreement was negotiated 25 years ago, it couldn’t contemplate technological advances in the industry.
NAFTA’s “rules of origin” don’t include many of the components that exist in automobiles today — GPS and advanced driver assistance systems like lane sensors, Volpe said. Not including those components skews the percentage of components coming from a particular country.
Renegotiating NAFTA could also improve mobility for specialists working for a particular company. This is Canada’s chance to reopen categories of specialist who can get special H1 visas to work in the United States without needing a green card.
“We see this as a great opportunity,” Volpe said.
Wynne noted that Ontario is the main customer of 20 U.S. states and the second-largest of eight more.
She said nearly nine million U.S. jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada.
The premier said the government is working in Washington and in state capitals across the U.S. to address issues that could affect Ontario-U.S. trade and ensure the province’s interests are represented.
Wynne also said the province has retained legal experts and trade advisers to support ongoing efforts to improve trade with the U.S.
“We are not satisfied to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to any renegotiation of NAFTA,” Wynne said Thursday in a statement.
“We see this decision as an opportunity to look at how NAFTA could potentially be improved to make the agreement even more effective for the people of Ontario, our workers and businesses.”
Wynne said she will continue to travel to the U.S. to meet with governors, legislators and businesses in states that have strong trading partnerships with Ontario.
We are not satisfied to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to any renegotiation of NAFTA.