The Trans Pacific Partnership, the Canadian-European trade agreement, and a new free trade agreement with China are all on the agenda of the Trudeau Liberals in the near future. One wonders how a federal government that ran on a platform of “building the middle class” can be so blindly supportive of trade deals that are destined to have the exact opposite effect.
Like the North American Free Trade Agreement that came before them, these trade agreements are about the exporting of good paying jobs, the exploitation of workers in countries where workers have far less rights than they do here in Canada, and the protection of corporate profits at the expense of the public good.
We have just seen rounds of bargaining where pension concessions were forced by the employer under the threat of removing investment from Canada. This is what happens when the flow of capital investment is used as leverage to reduce the rights of workers. These trade deals encourage the movement of capital into countries where workers have fewer rights and lower wages and, in turn, force countries like Canada to lower labour standards in order to compete. For workers, this means a race to the bottom in pay, benefits and rights at work.
These trade agreements put public services and social programs at risk through opening the door to private delivery of public services, and may limit the right of governments to source goods and services locally.
They also corporatize our democracy by allowing corporations to sue governments in special tribunals for passing laws that might affect their profits. These tribunals are outside the normal legal system and are decided by corporate and trade lawyers acting as judges. These agreements are negotiated in secret and, many times, arbitrated in secret, and are made to serve the interests multinational corporations, not workers. The so-called “workers’ rights protections” that are included in them are hollow and are not enforced or even enforceable.
The CCU is not against trade. We are for trade that promotes income equality and workers rights. We are against trade deals that promote corporate rights over equality, democracy, and the provision and retention of good paying jobs for Canadians. It is painfully obvious that the Trudeau Liberals, for all their talk of equality, are not able to walk the walk with their trade policy. Instead, they seem to be willing to trade off economic equality for corporate trade at any cost.