Hundreds of workers from the manufacturing sector and various trade unions have taken to the streets of Montreal to protest the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations taking place in the city and to demand greater protection for Canadian jobs.
The workers — mostly in the manufacturing sector — are calling for NAFTA to be improved so it better protects jobs within Canada. The sixth round of talks to renegotiate the deal between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are currently underway at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Montreal.
“We need to negotiate a better deal that is going to help the jobs here, that’s going to protect the jobs here,” Marc Rousseau, a Bell Canada employee, told the media on Wednesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been calling for NAFTA to be scrapped. His rhetoric is aimed at putting American interests first — no matter what the cost. The U.S. President’s tough talk is forcing representatives from the three North American countries to try to hammer out a new agreement, and workers view this as an opportunity for them.
“It is good news that we have a chance to renegotiate NAFTA,” said Hughes Perreault, President of the Political Action Committee for Unifor.
Many of the workers rallying in Montreal are part of Unifor — the largest union representing the private sector in Canada. They say that NAFTA has harmed the Canadian manufacturing industry, claiming jobs and money have left the country as a result of the trade agreement. Unifor President Jerry Dias insists that a renewed NAFTA needs to protect Canadian jobs. Mr. Dias said he disagrees with almost everything Trump says.
“But one thing he was right on is that the trade deals have been poor for American workers, bad for Canadian workers, and frankly, bad for Mexican workers.”
Cabinet ministers from the three countries in the trade pact are expected to arrive in Montreal in the coming days to help finalize a new NAFTA — if consensus can be reached at the bargaining table.