TORONTO -- Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is again meeting with key players in the auto industry as NAFTA renegotiations continue.
Freeland met with Unifor president Jerry Dias and his American counterpart, United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams, Friday in Toronto.
Ahead of their closed-door meeting, Freeland reiterated that Canada wants renegotiations to touch on labour provisions, the environment and gender.
Unifor and the UAW issued a joint statement after the meeting.
“We are united with the UAW in our demand to address the imbalances in the auto industry as NAFTA is renegotiated,” Dias said in the statement. “The plain fact is that the United States and Canada have equitable trade, Mexico does not and that must be dealt with immediately.”
Dias and Williams said a sticking point is low auto worker wages and standards of living in Mexico.
“This is not a profit issue, this is a moral issue as the exploitation of workers continues,” Williams said. “Mexican workers deserve better.”
Currently, NAFTA includes side deals on labour and the environment — essentially just aspirational goals to improve working conditions and committing each country to enforce its own labour and environmental standards.
That has allowed Mexico to take advantage of its low wage rate, lack of free collective bargaining and non-existent health, safety and environmental standards to lure auto companies looking for the cheapest place to set up shop, Dias has said in the past.
Friday’s talk comes just days after U.S. President Donald Trump told a campaign-style rally in Arizona that the country will pull out of NAFTA "at some point."
Autos emerged as a key issue as NAFTA renegotiation talks began last week.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer opened discussions by pointing to the manufacturing sector as a reason why Americans view NAFTA as a failure.
He discussed the auto sector in the greatest detail, saying that thousands of American workers have lost their jobs.