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Auto Mayors Caucus express concerns over NAFTA renegotiations

By Bruce Chessell, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

When President Donald Trump took office late last year, a lot of people began to worry about what this could mean for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

As NAFTA discussions between Canada and the United States loom, Woodstock city council could be backing a resolution that would encourage the federal government to make automobile manufacturing a priority when it comes to NAFTA negotiations.

The Auto Mayors Caucus sent a resolution to cities with major automobile sectors with a goal of reinforcing the importance of auto manufacturing to the federal government.

Woodstock mayor Trevor Birtch, who is also a member of the Auto Mayors Caucus, said that he will definitely be supporting the resolution.

“Seeing what has transpired recently with the new president of the United States, now more than ever we need to remain unified in making sure that all of the interests of those individuals that depend on the automobile sector, for the community and for their livelihood, are protected,” Birtch said. “This will serve as a reminder to the federal government and the task force, to make sure that they understand the broader implications for all of southwestern Ontario.”

Mayor Birtch also said that these resolutions are important not only to Woodstock but the entire county.

“There is an assembly plant for General Motors in Ingersoll, supply companies located in Tillsonburg as well, and here in Woodstock there is the full automobile manufacturing facility of Toyota and the relationship that we have built up with all of these different Japanese supply companies,” the mayor said. “We know that the media south of the boarder can have a little confusion regarding protectionism, a lot of the rhetoric that came out was in regards to Mexico and not necessarily Canada.

“But we want to make sure that they understand that it’s a good working relationship that predates the NAFTA agreement,” he added. “Right back to the Auto Pact, which has solidified these businesses here.”

According to the resolution from the Auto Mayors Caucus, even minor changes to NAFTA could mean big consequences for workers and consumers on both sides of the border.

Oakville mayor and head of the Auto Mayors Caucus Rob Burton said they don’t know what the impact would be until they know what could potentially be changed.

“We are working to strengthen the auto industry in recognition of the high value it gives to the Ontario, Canadian and local economy.”

Burton added that the point of the resolution is for the caucus to show solidarity in protecting the Canadian auto industry.

“We’re asking the federal government to make sure that it recognizes the auto industry as a priority in its negotiations with the U.S.,” Burton said.

bchessell@postmedia.com