NUPGE Paper: the impact of COVID-19 on trade and investment

“We have seen during COVID-19 how these trade and investment agreements create unemployment and compromise access to necessary public goods and services like medical supplies and equipment. This report is intended to start looking closely at these issues. ” – Larry Brown, NUPGE President 

Ottawa (09 February, 2021) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has released a report, The Impact of COVID-19 on Global Trade, Trade Agreements, and Trade Negotiations.

Snapshot of the current situation: "catastrophic"

The paper offers a snapshot of the current situation as it affects global trade, as well as trade and investment agreements, and trade and investment negotiations. It includes statistics describing the impact as having a "catastrophic" impact on the global economy and a "precipitous" decreases in global trade.

The paper surveys various ways the pandemic has had an impact:

  • Disrupted manufacturing due to lean manufacturing, offshoring, and outsourcing
  • Delays in Supply Lead Time:
  • Export restrictions - medical supplies
  • The threat from investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) claims
  • The global campaign against the vaccine monopoly capitalism and oligarchy of a few pharmaceutical companies and 10 industrialized countries under the World Trade Organization (WTO)—Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) 

Concerns for all workers

The report highlights important concerns for organized labour and renews calls for alternatives that benefit workers and the public good.

For unions representing public sector workers, the report highlights a key concern: COVID-19 reveals the way neoliberal trade and investment agreements create unemployment and compromise access to necessary public goods and services like medical supplies and equipment. They do this by making it easier and cheaper for companies to adopt anti-union job killing strategies of offshoring and outsourcing to assembly and manufacturing facilities outside Canada. By undermining local supply chains, the trade agreements to which the Canadian government is a signatory leave us exposed and vulnerable to the temporary closures of offshore assembly and manufacturing facilities caused by the pandemic.

“We have seen during COVID-19 how these trade and investment agreements create unemployment and compromise access to necessary public goods and services like medical supplies and equipment," said Larry Brown, NUPGE President. "This report is intended to start looking closely at these issues.” 

Renewed call: adopt a different industrial strategy

Consequently, one of the defining features of the contemporary conversation around trade is that there are renewed calls to adopt a different industrial strategy: to change the way we do global trade, and to adopt alternatives to existing trade and investment  agreements in the interest of workers and all citizens.

“The failures around COVID-19 have shown us that adopting a new strategy for trade and manufacturing is vital,” said Brown. “A strategy that prioritizes people and their wellbeing over corporate profits. A strategy that respects the democratic rights of citizens and not one that bows to the highest bidder.” 

More information:

The Impact of COVID-19 on Global Trade, Trade Agreements, and Trade Negotiations

Issues and Campaigns
Occupational Groups

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE