Trudeau Says He Is Labor’s ‘Partner’ In NAFTA Negotiations

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
Font Size:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that unions will benefit from a new and improved North American Free Trade Agreement.

“The bottom line is, after years of neglect, organized labour finally has a strong partner in Ottawa, and we will not let you down,” Trudeau told an adoring crowd of union members in Montreal.

As the Canadian Press reports, he pledged to increase protection for workers and the environment in the renegotiated trade deal.

In an apparent attempt to woo the union vote, Trudeau told an audience of the United Food and Commercial Workers that organized labor is “well represented” on the Liberal government’s NAFTA council.

“This modernization has been a long time coming and we’re going to get a fair deal for Canadian workers,” he told the crowd who gave the prime minister a standing ovation.

“Together, we’re going to land an agreement people in this room and across the country can be proud of.”

When he wasn’t promising gains for labor, Trudeau was on the phone with President Donald Trump on Thursday. “The two leaders also discussed the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation and stressed their hope to reach an agreement by the end of the year,” according to a White House statement that would seem to be at odds with Trump’s repeated threats to abandon the trade agreement.

The Canadian president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union gave Trudeau high marks for his willingness to cooperate with organized labor and to squash legislation from the previous Conservative government that was perceived as anti-union.

Paul Meinema said his membership will be happy to work with Trudeau on NAFTA

“We hope to continue to influence and continue to have discussions and ensure workers’ rights are front and centre in those discussions,” he told CBC.

But, despite the uproarious applause, Meinema says Trudeau shouldn’t be too confident that he has the union vote in his pocket.

“Our people received the prime minister graciously because he is the prime minister, he was an invited guest at our convention,” he said.

Follow David on Twitter