Get ready for anything trade lawyer tells business community on NAFTA

OTTAWA — Growing uncertainty over the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement means companies need to brace themselves, including for the possibility that President Donald Trump walks away from a deal, a trade lawyer is warning the business community.“The first step is for companies to understand this is very real and that they need to start contingency planning,” said Dan Ujczo, an international trade lawyer specializing in Canada-U.S. matters.On the campaign trail last year, candidate Trump vowed to rip up NAFTA — the 23-year-old trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico — if he could not renegotiate a better deal.His recent reiterations of that threat, along with demands Canada and Mexico consider impossible, have forced everyone to take it more seriously.It remains to be seen whether Trump will in fact attempt to withdraw, how U.S. Congress would react, whether Mexico and Canada would still keep talking and what that would end up meaning, in real terms, for cross-border trade between the three countries.The U.S. business and agriculture community has been ramping up its efforts to convince Congress, which could use its legislative powers to make it harder for Trump to exit the agreement, that they are not on board with abandoning the deal.That outreach is important, Ujczo told businesses during an online presentation Friday, but it is also not too early to get ready for any outcome.There are some practical matters to consider, such as taking a look at the supply chain to determine how exposed a business would become if some of the tougher proposals, such as stricter rules of origin for the materials used in auto manufacturing, come to pass.That should include examining checking certificates of origin and maintaining scrupulous records, because both client companies and customs officials are likely to start applying greater scrutiny as they also get ready for the new way of doing things.“It’s time to really buckle down and take a look at that, because these proposals are going to heighten awareness throughout the supply chain and at the borders,” Ujczo, who is with the cross-border firm Dickinson Wright, in Columbus, Ohio, said during the presentation.The lawyer also had advice for companies thinking about outsourcing to Asia as a way to minimize the fallout from the NAFTA renegotiations.“Keep in mind NAFTA is not the only thing the Trump administration is doing. It’s targeting Asia,” said Ujczo, who noted the U.S. has been ramping up its trade enforcement activities all around the world. “The only way the Trump trade strategy works is as a one-two punch: tightening up North America, while also targeting goods coming in from overseas.”That raises the question of whether Canadian companies should think about packing up and moving south.Ujczo said that would not be the case for everyone, but if they have U.S. customers, it makes financial sense and the company was already thinking about moving there someday, it might not be a bad idea to speed up those plans.“It has to have some business rationale,” he said in an interview. “I would never recommend just setting up shop in the U.S. if you don’t have any other business going on there,” he said, but if it was already on the horizon: “It would accelerate that life cycle.”Brenda Swick, a Toronto-based international trade lawyer with Dickinson Wright who joined the presentation, was more cautious.“I think they should stay put where they are right now, but they should be looking at plan B,” she said in an interview.Swick said those back-up plans should include figuring out how a company would be effected if there was a new NAFTA, a bilateral agreement between Canada and the U.S., or no free trade agreement between the two countries at all.— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter read more

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Guterres hails historic Convention banning violence and harassment at work

In his speech to delegates in the Swiss city, Mr. Guterres congratulated Member States for “building upon a legacy of achievement, guided by that age-old vision of social justice through social dialogue and international cooperation”.The Convention passed with 439 votes in favour, with seven against and 30 abstentions, after a ballot involving representatives of governments, employers and workers, in line with ILO’s tripartite structure.History is made! The @ILO has just adopted a new Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work. Here’s what you need to know. #ilo100— ILO (@ilo) June 21, 2019 It is the first new Convention – a legally binding international instrument – agreed by the International Labour Conference since 2011, when the Domestic Workers Convention, was adopted.According to the new labour standard, violence and harassment at work “constitute a human rights violation or abuse”.Defined as behaviour that is likely to lead to “physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm”, violence and harassment are also regarded as “a threat to equal opportunities” which are “unacceptable and incompatible with decent work”.In signing the Convention, Member States have a responsibility to promote a “general environment of zero tolerance”, while also protecting trainees, interns, volunteers, jobseekers and employees “irrespective of their contractual status”.This includes some 2.5 billion people in the informal work sector, whose collective bargaining power should be utilized to promote workers’ rights, ILO said this week.For ILO, the Convention reflects the organization’s belief that labour is not a commodity and that people’s wellbeing – and peace – depends on respect.“Without respect, there is no dignity at work, and, without dignity, there is no social justice,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Workquality Department. “We now have an agreed definition of violence and harassment; we know what needs to be done to prevent and address it, and by whom. We hope these new standards will lead us into the future of work we want to see.”Protections must become a reality: RyderILO Director-General Guy Ryder, meanwhile, highlighted that the “next step is to put these protections into practice, so that we create a better, safer, decent, working environment for women and men”.In his speech at the ILO Conference, Mr. Guterres also welcomed its Centenary Declaration, which he said marked “an historic opportunity to open a door to a brighter future” for people around the world.“The Centenary Declaration is much more than a statement of wishes or intent,” he added. “It proposes a shift in the paradigm of how we look at development. The wellbeing of people must be at the centre of economic and social policies”.Mission statements like these were crucial, the UN chief insisted, warning that globalization and climate change had left those on the margins of society “paying the highest price”.He added: “More than ever, multilateralism is under fire… And everywhere, we see deficits of trust and a surplus of fear-mongering. You could call it an age of disillusion. The most effective way to rebuild trust is by listening and by delivering. The International Labour Organisation plays a central role for a simple reason: Your agenda is at the centre of people’s concerns.”Describing the ILO as being “ahead of its time” for its tripartite governing structure, Mr. Guterres insisted that new mechanisms for cooperation and governance had to be reimagined in future, to cope with current challenges.Amid unprecedented change encompassing climate shocks, demographic, technological and societal transformation, the UN Secretary-General insisted that all of these things “profoundly affected” workers everywhere.And while these changes offered opportunities, they could also generate “fear and anxiety”, he warned.“As we look ahead, we know new technologies – especially artificial intelligence – will inevitably lead to massive destruction of jobs and a massive creation of new jobs,” he said, calling for a “massive” investment in education to ensure lifelong learning in a world where the concept of “work” itself is evolving.Listen to an interview with Professor Catharine MacKinnon, who established the legal grounds for defining sexual harassment as sex discrimination. read more

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