Feb 182020

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada calls on Parliament to refuse to ratify the USMCA, and we urge the labour and democratic movements to mobilize against this sellout of the interests of working people and farmers across Canada.

The USMCA is fundamentally a continuation of NAFTA, and before it the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement. All these agreements are examples of continental corporate constitutions that have less to do with trade and more to do with expanding corporate rights and undermining sovereignty, democracy, and labour rights, wages and standards.

The Canadian economy has been shot through with US corporate investment and ownership through most of the 20th century.  More than 75% of Canada’s trade is with the US, making Canada particularly vulnerable to trade sanctions, tariffs and duties from the US. The FTA and NAFTA have underscored the economic role that the US has imposed on Canada, as a supplier of raw materials and a market for finished products. 

The USMCA agreement furthers this role with the escalation of the de-industrialization of Canada. The restructuring of the Canadian economy towards these ends has been an ongoing process for more than 30 years which has already seen the loss of well over 500,000 manufacturing jobs. The corporate architects of NAFTA and their governments in North America promised shared prosperity and trickle-down economics. Now that their lies have been exposed, workers and their unions should reject NAFTA 2.0 as a vicious attack on jobs, wages, and unions.  “Right-to-work” laws will surely follow in the wake of the USMCA deal.  Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is already drafting legislation that looks remarkably like right-to-work.

Some in the labour movement, after three decades of massive job losses and declining wages, have lost sight of the big picture and think the USMCA is a “mixed bag” with both positives and negatives compared to NAFTA. This appears to be the NDP’s position as well which shamefully voted for the first step in Parliament’s ratification. In fact, the negatives far outweigh the positives in this new deal and the fundamental character of this agreement is the same.

The promoters of the USMCA point to the removal of investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms (ISDS) which allowed corporations to sue governments for lost profits. But, ISDS has been replaced with other provisions that attack Canada’s sovereignty and independence and further entrench corporate power.

The USMCA is a serious setback for working people in several areas. Dairy and poultry producers will be devastated by this version of NAFTA. The USMCA opens the Canadian domestic market by another 3.59% share for US products and restrictions for Canada’s exports of cheese and milk products. Combined with concessions made in the CETA agreement, 10% of the Canadian market has now been opened up to foreign producers.  This is a massive attack on supply management toward benefiting US-based agribusiness which will decimate small family producers in Canada, especially Quebec. This is about US corporate control of our food system which will also have a long-term impact on health and food sovereignty.

USMCA was sold as protection for the auto industry. However, within days of the US, Canada and Mexico reaching an initial deal, General Motors announced the closure of its Oshawa plant which will cost Oshawa the 2,700 jobs in the plant, and 20,000 spin-off jobs elsewhere in Oshawa and surrounding area. Ford and Fiat Chrysler are laying off workers and downsizing their workforce in Canada.  This is the prelude to more plant closures in Canada, and we believe the eventual departure of the Big Three from Canada.

The autoworkers are likely to be the first victims of the USMCA, but right behind them will be workers in industrial and manufacturing jobs across the country which are now all on wheels, and which are now all subject to the employer demands for concessions to wages, pensions and benefits that faced autoworkers since 2001.

Perhaps the most outrageous incursion on the sovereignty of Canada’s trade policy is the USMCA’s “non-market economy” clause which removes Canada’s right to reach new economic agreements with countries deemed to be non-market. This is a thinly veiled attempt to block Canada from forming stronger economic links with China. Canada must now consult the US and Mexico before any agreement could be reached. This could also stop Canada from developing mutually beneficial trade with Cuba, Vietnam, DPRK or any other country that the US deems “non-market”. This is part of the USMCA’s attempt to lock Canada into an alliance with an increasingly dangerous partner: US imperialism.

Canada must reject this deal. There is no reforming NAFTA-USMCA, which at its base is a corporate constitution. We call on all political parties and Members of Parliament to reject the USMCA’s ratification. Canada must get out of this agreement and other neoliberal free trade agreements such as the TPP and CETA. These deals are focused on the “right” of capital to achieve maximum profits by removing restrictions on corporate investments, driving down wages and living standards across the continent, and transforming Canada into a supplier of raw materials and a market for finished goods made elsewhere.

Workers’ interests in the US, Canada and Mexico are the same. Workers want a trade policy that’s multilateral and mutually beneficial – not one that drives down wages, and sets worker against worker in the race to the bottom.

Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, Feb 9, 2020