A Canada-Korea trade deal looks like a winner for Canadian agribusiness, but the auto industry is making a last-ditch push to head off the agreement.

Trade union Unifor said a free-trade deal with South Korea will be a job killer for the Canadian auto industry and widen our trade deficit.

That’s because it would eliminate the 6.1 per cent tariff on Korean imported cars, but do little to get Canadian autos into the Korean market, Unifor president Jerry Dias said.

“The Korean market is structured for Korean exports. This is all about them. Unfortunately, we have a government that deals more about philosophy than it does in putting Canadians to work,” Dias said in an interview with CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange.

Opposition to deal

Ford Motor Company of Canada CEO Dianne Craig and Magna CEO Don Walker are among the lobbyists trying to get the ear of Industry Minister James Moore to ask for the deal to be stopped.

But after a meeting in December between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Hwang-sik, there is fear a deal is “imminent.”

“There is no question the deal will get done, because the federal government needs diversions. Senate scandals, robocalls, there’s too many things going on politically, they need a diversion,” Dias said.

He said similar free-trade deals between South Korea and the U.S. and the EU have resulted in a flood of South Korean cars into their markets.

“It’s just thousands and thousands of more jobs lost. The trade deficit with Korea already was $3 billion in 2012, $2.7 billion last year and it’s just going to get worse,” Dias said.

The beef industry is welcoming the deal, after Korea reopened the market to Canadian beef following an eight-year ban. 

Dias said growth in Canadian agribusiness exports cannot hope to counteract the huge deficit Canada has in the auto sector.

“They ship over 200,000 vehicles a year in our market — they should be putting an assembly plant in Canada. If they want to play a role, then build here. We ship 100 cars a year,” he said.