There are serious concerns with the Trans Pacific Partnership that can only be addressed with a full and open debate among Canadians about the deal, Unifor National President Jerry Dias told the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade this morning.

“Meaningful public consultation informed by credible, independent research is a must,” Dias told the committee. “But if meaningful changes cannot be made to the TPP at this point, then it’s not a deal that our union can support.”

Dias said the Liberal government needs to take a hard look at the deal, negotiated by the previous Conservative government, before putting it to a vote for ratification by Parliament, and urged the government to avoid “fantasy-land assumptions” when discussing the deal with Canadians.

“We don’t need more government studies that simply aim to convince Canadians all ‘free trade’ deals are good deals,” he said. “Canadians need to be empowered to decide if the TPP is, in fact, in our best interests.”

Dias pointed out that the TPP will do nothing to address Canada’s growing auto manufacturing trade deficit – and will, in fact, make it worse. Canada’s auto trade deficit now sits at $19 billion. “This is a pretty significant drop from the $14 billion surplus we once enjoyed, and not that long ago,” Dias said.

And while it is worth looking for ways to diversify Canada’s auto export market beyond the United States, Dias pointed out that the types of vehicles produced in Canada are not desired in most Asian countries – so any opening of the market is unlikely to see more cars shipped there.

Dias used South Korea as an example. Canada signed a trade deal with that country a year ago. Since then, manufacturing exports have dropped 3.9 per cent, while imports from South Korea have jumped 9 per cent and our manufacturing trade deficit with Korea grew to $4 billion.

Likewise, the TPP will not give Canadian auto manufacturers greater access to the Japanese market, Dias said, pointing out thatJapan already has no import tariffs on autos.

“The problem with Japan isn’t about tariffs. There are deeper, structural issues at play and unfortunately these weren’t addressed in the deal,” he said.

Dias spoke to the committee on a day dedicated to the auto industry, but took the opportunity to point out other concerns with the TPP, including foreign ownership rules in telecommunications, raw log exports, drug costs, the ability to regulate online TV, supply management, and more.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.