Trade Cases

USW Leaders Comment on NAFTA Issues

Written by Sandy Williams

The United States and Canadian leaders of the United Steelworkers released a joint statement on Wednesday advocating NAFTA rules-of-origin, strong labor and environmental rights.

United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard and Canadian National Director Ken Neumann urge strengthening regional rules-of-origin for autos, auto parts and manufactured products, including requirements for melting and pouring steel and aluminum within the NAFTA region. Correction of labor and environmental weaknesses that lead to the exploitation of workers in Mexico is needed, as well as protecting all NAFTA workers from unfair trade practices outside the region, they say.

The USW joint statement follows:

“A significantly strengthened regional ‘rules of origin’ requirement should promote production in the NAFTA region, rather than outsource or otherwise leak production and the benefits of the agreement to China, Vietnam and other exporting countries that exploit workers and don’t play by the same rules. We urge negotiators to pursue proposals that significantly strengthen regional rules of origin requirements.

“The USW also believes that regional rules of origin requirements relating to the production of steel should require steel to be melted and poured in the NAFTA region in order to be considered for tariff preferences. A similar standard should be adopted for other materials such as aluminum in order to ensure the entire process relating to the production of these materials occurs in the NAFTA region.

“Significantly higher regional rules of origin requirements will benefit North American manufacturing workers by discouraging the use of high levels of offshore content, such as auto parts or steel from Asia. But these rules must be implemented in a way that benefits workers in all three NAFTA countries. In Mexico, the United States and Canada, companies exploit weak labor standards to move jobs to jurisdictions where wages are lowest and working conditions are the weakest.

“The best and easiest way to a level playing field for North American workers is not to punish Mexican workers, but to negotiate strong and binding labor and environmental protections with strict timelines that are enforced in all three NAFTA countries.

“The USW has long supported the renegotiation of NAFTA, but negotiators must focus on advancing and protecting the interests of workers in all three NAFTA countries. We will fight to ensure that NAFTA’s rules, including regional rules of origin as well as labor and environmental rights, are strengthened so that workers and their industries across North America are the primary beneficiaries of a renegotiated NAFTA. Our governments must also strengthen NAFTA to protect workers from unfair trade practices outside the region – including currency manipulation – and eliminate disparities within the NAFTA trading bloc that tilt the playing field for corporate interests while exploiting workers and harming the environment in areas with the weakest standards.”

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