U.S. Proposes to Boost Nafta's Labor Standards
By Paul Vieira
OTTAWA -- The Trump administration on Tuesday introduced a proposal aimed at boosting labor standards among the member countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement, but it earned an immediate rebuke from union officials for falling short.
At the current round of Nafta renegotiations, which are set to end Wednesday, U.S. negotiators put forward language that "replaces the original Nafta's toothless approach on labor with enforceable provisions to benefit workers across America," according to a statement from a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
USTR didn't provide specifics on the actual text, but said the new measure seeks commitments from Mexico and Canada to respect collective-bargaining agreements and other core labor standards.
Organized-labor officials were briefed on the U.S. proposal on the condition they didn't disclose specific details in the proposal. The proposal doesn't go far enough to protect workers, they said.
"It is not calculated to deal with the pressing labor issues in Nafta," said Celeste Drake, trade and globalization specialist at AFL-CIO. The union would continue to press U.S., Canadian and Mexican officials for improvements to the proposed language, Ms. Drake said.
Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, Canada's largest private-sector union, said the U.S. proposal is similar to one in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which disappointed organized labor. Provisions in TPP built on labor commitments in previous U.S. trade deals and core international labor practices. In one of his first acts as U.S. president, Donald Trump formally withdrew from the TPP.
"We need to fix the labor issues or the deal isn't worth the paper it's written on," said Mr. Dias, who has endorsed Canada's efforts to address labor standards.
An official with the Mexican delegation didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.