Windsor

Auto mayors want Canada to have level playing field with U.S. in TPP

The mayors of Ontario's automotive cities and towns are calling on Ottawa to ensure that whatever automotive trade rules are set in the pending trans-Pacific trade deal will come into effect at the same time in both the United States and Canada.

Trans-Pacific Partnership involves 12 countries representing 40% of the world's economy

The Ontario auto mayors group wants Ottawa to ensure that Canada and the U.S. will continue to have harmonized automotive trade rules under the TPP, which is still being negotiated. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

The mayors of Ontario's automotive cities and towns are calling on Ottawa to ensure that whatever automotive trade rules are set in a pending Pacific Rim trade deal will come into effect at the same time in both the United States and Canada.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal that involves 12 countries that represent 40 per cent of the world's economy.

The trade deal has been hit by some snags, including the content rules for automotive and auto part production — which Japan has reportedly fought to set a level that is well below what they are under NAFTA.

On Thursday, the Ontario auto mayors said they had sent a letter to International Trade Minister Ed Fast, saying that Canada must be working under the same rules for the automotive sector at the same time as the U.S.

"We're concerned that the most important thing is first, to make sure that the tariff reductions are done on the same time frame as the U.S. so that we stay harmonized with the North American market, which we have been since the Auto Pact and that's been very good for the Canadian economy," Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, the chair of the auto mayors group, told CBC News in a telephone interview Thursday.

"The second thing is that the schedule for the reduction of content, we want that to be phased in on the same time frame that the U.S. has negotiated with Japan."

Burton further said the Auto Mayors are "very hopeful that the negotiating team representing Canada is able to achieve the same thing that the American negotiators have done."

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the health of the local automotive industry is key to his city's success.

"We value the partnership we have with our automotive facilities," Dilkens said in a statement. "As such, we want to keep and continue to grow jobs in the auto sector because each auto job generates nine more."

Workers fear possible job losses

The auto industry employs tens of thousands of people in Canada. And many of its workers are concerned about the impact the TPP could have on their jobs, should the trade deal result in greater competition for the sector.

Unifor, the country's largest private-sector union, recently held a series of rallies in a handful of Ontario ridings that are home to automotive businesses, in which they demanded that Conservative candidates reveal their views on the TPP.

In an interview with CBC News today, Dennis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, underlined the importance of the auto sector to the Canadian economy.

"Since the 1960s, every single downturn in the Canadian economy had an element of being triggered by a downtown in the auto sector and every single recovery in the economy is triggered by an upturn in the auto sector," he said.

He said any TPP agreement that undermined the auto sector would be like "playing with fire."

"You're playing with fire when you start to put the auto sector out for sale to try to get a broader TPP deal. As a politician, you've got to be really careful with that."

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