Ford's Canadian subsidiary lashed out Tuesday at a new Canada-South Korea free trade deal it says will lead to a one-way flood of Korean-built Kia and Hyundai cars to Canada.
"We believe that South Korea will remain one of the most closed automotive markets in the world under the deal negotiated by the Canadian government," Ford of Canada said in a statement.
The auto maker said it therefor "cannot support the Canada-South Korea free trade agreement."
The criticism earned a sharp rebuke from Prime Minister Stephen Harper who accused the car maker of duplicity, citing Ford's support for a US-South Korea trade pact two years ago.
Harper told reporters Ford secured "access through the United States to the Korean market. What we are doing here is allowing other Canadian companies and other Canadian sectors to have the same access that Ford already has.
"So it is I don't think realistic for a company to think it will have one set of rules for it, and another set of rules for the entire rest of the Canadian economy," he added.
Canada is the world's fifth-largest market for South Korean cars. Last year South Korea shipped $2.23 billion worth of vehicles to Canada and imported $92 million worth of Canadian cars and parts.
Under the new trade pact announced in Seoul, South Korea agreed to completely remove its 8.0 percent import tariff on Canadian cars and parts.
Canada, meanwhile, will reduce 6.1 percent tariffs on South Korean cars and parts to four percent within 24 months.
Ford's concerns were echoed by Canada's largest private sector union, Unifor, which warned that 33,000 manufacturing jobs could be lost in the trade deal with South Korea.
The union represents 300,000 Canadian workers, including 39,000 auto workers.