Legislation is needed to regulate Canadian content in manufactured goods, the president of the Canadian Auto Workers said at a business luncheon on Wednesday.

"We have to be proactive and have Canadian content manufactured in goods," said Ken Lewenza in an address to the Economic Club of Canada. "We would like the provincial government to ensure that we can do that because we're getting some resistance."

He said that content legislation that respects the laws of the Free Trade agreement can be drafted to give local manufacturers a competitive edge.

He also called for a new international auto pact that would ensure Canadian manufactured cars have the same advantage as foreign cars do in trade agreements. He complained that auto manufacturers in Asia prosper because they limit their imports while promoting their exports. Canada has a less stringent import policy.

Lewenza also said that union workers are willing to give up further benefits to help Ford Motors come up with a viable restructuring plan, even though the company hasn't asked members for the concessions.

The CAW head said his membership will voluntarily give the company the same deal the union reached with General Motors -- a decrease of about $7 an hour in wages and benefits.

GM will save hundreds of millions of dollars a year because of the deal.

However, Lewenza made clear that the problems of the auto industry have little to do with union agreements and much to do with the flailing economy.

Union members "could work for free for a year, and it might prolong the life of GM by a week," he said.

He called for governments to give the auto industry emergency support to help develop the industry's technology and productivity.

Manufacturer's have less than 30 days to come up with a restructuring plan that will ensure U.S. and Canada's governments of long-term success. This past week both the U.S. and Canada rejected their preliminary plans and urged them to make deeper cuts before asking for bailout loans.

Windsor, Oshawa, London and St. Thomas were used as examples of Ontario cities that depend on the survival and prosperity of the auto industry. He reminded the crowd that a strong industry creates a strong economy.

"We take this very seriously," Lewenza said.

"I consider us collectively in this together. I don't care if you're a banker, healthcare worker, who ever you are, we are in this together."