Will Canada’s NAFTA negotiators cave in to Trump?
Elizabeth Rowley, second from right, is the leader of the Communist Party of Canada. She says the Trump administration is pushing Canadian workers and farmers over the cliff with its demands for NAFTA renegotiation. What's needed, Rowley argues, is fair, bi-lateral trade. | People's Voice

With NAFTA renegotiations between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico still underway, People’s World presents the guest commentary below from Canada. Elizabeth Rowley, the leader of the Communist Party of Canada, argues that the Trump administration is making extreme demands that will have a major impact on Canadian workers and farmers. She warns that the Trudeau government may cave on many issues while trying to save face on a few big prominent items.

News that the U.S. has withdrawn its demand 50 percent of auto content be produced in the U.S., and 80 percent be produced in North America—a demand that would have eliminated automobile assembly and parts plants and jobs in Canada—has left news media and NAFTA analysts in Ottawa light-headed. They think they’ve just cleverly avoided a lethal fall over the edge of a cliff.

But they’ve forgotten two things. First, that it was the Trump administration that opened NAFTA renegotiations by putting a whole number of “over the cliff” options on the table, starting with stripping Canada of its auto and manufacturing jobs and industries, and continuing with eliminating Canada’s supply-management system in agriculture (bankrupting farmers and damaging Canada’s food security); procurement policies that would quickly privatize public services and universal social programs; and unfettered access to Canada’s softwood lumber, oil and gas, and other rich natural resources.

The second thing forgotten is that the U.S. government is still demanding these things. Furthermore, having dropped their first over-the-cliff demand, they’re expecting Canada’s negotiators to concede on one or preferably more of their other demands.

According to media reports, U.S. Chief Negotiator Lighthizer wants Canada to give up our supply management system for dairy and poultry; our “ridiculous” $20 threshold for applying duties on goods purchased outside Canada, including online purchases; and our “third world” intellectual property protections, among other things not specified.

This would be folly for workers and farmers—and for Canada as a whole.

The great danger now is that the federal government of Justin Trudeau will give in to these demands, blowing big new holes in Canada’s economy, sovereignty, democracy, jobs, and social programs. Mass public protests and pressure from the labor and democratic movements can stop the government from signing on to a bad deal that’s even worse for working people than the original NAFTA was.

It’s time that governments fought for working people and for the interests of the country, instead of the greedy transnational corporations that finance them.

Instead of free trade, we need multi-lateral and mutually beneficial fair trade with the world, and a government willing to implement policies that put people before profits.


Elizabeth Rowley
Elizabeth Rowley

Elizabeth Rowley is a politician, writer, and political activist. Elected as the first woman to lead the Communist Party of Canada, Rowley has been active in the fight for public education and healthcare, local democracy, and for labor and civil rights. She writes for People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper.