A New NAFTA Without Canada? Unions and Tech Push Back Against Trump’s Mexico-Only Deal

September 3, 2018, 11:40 AM UTC

President Donald Trump may be insisting that the U.S. will be “better off” without a North American free trade deal that includes Canada, but American unions do not agree—and neither does the tech industry.

Richard Trumka, the president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO,) said Sunday that Canada needs to be on board, alongside the U.S. and Mexico, due to existing economic integration across the continent.

“The three countries in North America, the economy is pretty integrated,” Trumka said in a Fox interview. “And it’s pretty hard to see how that would work without having Canada in the deal.”

In a tweet Monday morning, the president lashed out at Trumka over his remarks, saying the union head “represented his union poorly on television this weekend.”

“Some of the things he said were so againt [sic] the working men and women of our country, and the success of the U.S. itself, that it is easy to see why unions are doing so poorly,” Trump said, before calling Trumka “a Dem!”

A week ago, the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement on revisions to the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump and the unions alike have criticized as a “disaster” (in Trump’s words) or “devastating” (in Trumka’s) for U.S. workers.

Trump then said Canada had until Friday to climb on board—a significant date because Congress needs 90 days’ notification to approve a new NAFTA, and Mexico gets a new president at the start of December. However, Canada and the U.S. did not meet the negotiating deadline, and talks are to continue this week.

The U.S. president took to Twitter to claim there was “no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” while Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took a somewhat more upbeat tack.

The tech industry has also weighed in on the idea of a deal sans Canada will its own set of worries. “We are concerned that excluding Canada from a final agreement will limit our export opportunities and hurt the U.S. economy,” said Gary Shapiro, the head of the Consumer Technology Association, in a statement.

The current failure to conclude the Canadian negotiations isn’t the only issue for the unions—Trumka also pointed out that the Mexican agreement remains vague for now. “The language isn’t drafted. We haven’t seen whole chapters of the thing. We’re anxious to move forward with it and anxious to have all three countries involved,” he said in the Fox interview.

The Mexican deal guarantees workers the right to union representation, and insists that 40-45% of cars are made by workers who are being paid at least $16 per hour. It is not surprising that the unions want to see the fine print on these elements of the pact.

This story has been updated to reflect the president’s tweet about Trumka on Monday.