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Local unions keeping an eye on NAFTA negotiations

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — labor unions are weighing in on trade talks happening in the White House.

Local groups say they’re keeping an eye on what a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deal could mean for Hooiser workers as negotiations roll into their second week between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The White House originally hoped to finish negotiations by Friday but it looks like conversations will pick up this week.

“Look, we love Canada. But they have to treat us fairly. They haven't treated us fairly,” said President Donald Trump at a rally in Evansville last week. “I'll tell you what; this country is tired of being ripped off by other countries.”

The president made it clear to the Hoosier crowd he’s looking forward to tough talks with Canada.

Trump hinted at a trade tiff back in June during the G7 summit, while announcing potential tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from the country.

“We’re polite and reasonable but we will not be pushed around,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during the summit.

Less than 3 months later, President Trump revisited NAFTA but closed off initial talks with Canada.

“We think that would be harmful at this stage,” said Tony Flora, the president of North Central Indiana AFL-CIO. “To imagine that the global trade system can be now taken apart into a series of endless bilateral agreements that Donald Trump is proclaiming, just flies in the face of reality.”

Flora says while renegotiating NAFTA is necessary, leaving out an ally is not.

And while little is known about the tentative U.S.-Mexico agreement, Flora likes the prospects of higher wages across the board and incentives to keep work in the U.S. as part of a new deal.

But he’s skeptical on if those ideas will come to fruition.

“How would we find out whether or not workers in Mexico for example are earning that $16?” he said. “It’s hard enough in the U.S. at times to have that enforced. And my deep concern is this: we’re hearing this from the Trump administration, which is dead set against all forms of government regulation.”

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