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Stricter Regional Rules-of-Origin, Stronger Labour and Environmental Rights Go Hand-in-Hand, Say USW’s Gerard, Neumann

TORONTO – United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard and Canadian National Director Ken Neumann released the following joint statement today as the United States, Canada and Mexico begin discussions to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA):

“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 for autos, auto parts and other manufactured products including steel and aluminum while eliminating loopholes that weaken these provisions.

“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 labour 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 labour and environmental protections with strict timelines which 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 labour 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.” 

The USW is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, universities and municipal governments and agencies.

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For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Denis St. Pierre, USW Communications, 416-544-5990, 647-522-1630, dstpierre@usw.ca

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