This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Who’s Harper working for?

Is the China-Canada investment agreement a sell-out for Canada?

When an agreement is conducted with so much secrecy and lack of consultation with Canadians that Rick Mercer dedicates an entire rant to the subject, you know something is up. Two years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then-president Hu Jintao quietly witnessed the signing of the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement so many Canadians are up in arms about this week.

China went onto ratify the agreement not long thereafter, however Canada did not. Two years after the initial signing, a quiet press release issued on Friday afternoon dictated the deal was ratified, eliciting outrage from the public and politicians alike.

Let me make something clear. The many criticisms and concerns of this particular FIPA are not based on anti-business or anti-trade rhetoric, nor are they xenophobia – all tiresome accusations used by those in favour of this deal. In fact, even members of Harper’s own government expressed concerns over this agreement.

This particular FIPA stands out from the many others Canada has with trade and investment partners around the world for a few reasons.

It holds Canada legally bound for up to 31 years, not only with the current government, but subsequent ones as well.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May stated: “Unlike NAFTA, with an exit clause of six-months’ notice, this agreement cannot be exited for the first 15 years. After 15 years, either country can exit on one-year’s notice, but any existing investments are further protected for another 15 years.”

And here’s where the “sell-out” begins. Any exit by Canada from this FIPA would rely on the Chinese government’s agreement, which is highly unlikely. Canada holds a wealth of investment and business opportunities for China both in resource and technology sectors.

The deal is said to be largely one-sided and offers little protection to Canadian investors in China. Here in Canada, it opens the door for legal actions from Chinese and state-owned investors against federal, provincial or municipal policies or actions that might interfere or impede with their business. The implications are staggering and open the door to large liabilities for Canadian taxpayers…

Read the rest of this week’s column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/09/14/whos-harper-working-for

20 thoughts on “This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Who’s Harper working for?

  1. I have nothing against the Chinese. Admire the culture a great deal. But the culture IS different and they have different ways of doing things – not all of them compatible with the way we see doing things. Primary example: CONTRACT LAW!
    Regardless of who is right on any one issue, there will be differences. It is inevitable. And FIPA favours the Chinese when such differences occur. In that way, FIPA is totally one-sided.
    The Chinese business model is also long term. That this deal is so long term is not a surprise. But that we are locked in without even a trial period is just stupid.
    Another aspect of Chinese business is a relative disregard for the environment – especially a foreigner’s environment. Need proof? Look at their homeland. And that is their own backyard!
    Every culture brings different values and the Chinese are no exception. Individual people make compromises and adjust. The individual is NOT the problem. But all foreign governments accentuate those differences. They don’t adjust. And some of those values are simply NOT compatible with Canadian life. We are in a lot of trouble, guys. Harper sold us out.

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  2. Mike

    Once you separte out the paranoia and the personalities, this is a trade deal.
    Trade deals would never happen otherwise.
    Individuals, people and countries are more alike than different.
    What they all share is a fear of losing something they have or, being told they cannot have something they want.
    Trade deals are removed from these concerns…. and they have to otherwise nothing would ever be accomplished.
    Isolationism at any level is the single biggest stumbling point to building and establishing ongoing resiprocal releations. Trade is no different.
    By all means examine any deal for benefits and costs, just don’t base your motivation for doing so the above noted concerns. That would be a mistake.

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    1. Mike, you sound sane and reasonable but you aren’t if you don’t address the facts. The facts are that the entire population of Canada is about the same size as one city in China. There are more millionaires in China than there are people in Canada. Whenever you ‘do a deal’, it is prudent to measure the power of each party and the power imbalances as well. You can’t HAVE a fair deal between a mouse and an elephant. Can’t be done. Doesn’t make the mouse or the elephant wrong but it does make the deal imbalanced. We are way, way, way out-sized in this deal.

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      1. Mike

        I appreciate your concerns.
        However, your argument would make it very unlikely that trade deals would ever happen. Your position would suggest Canada never do business with the US because they might over whelm us as well. This is not the case.
        Trade does not care about your (my) politics? It is an exchange of goods and services needed/wanted and supplied by another.
        China holds a huge US debt obligation that if ever called, would devastate the US and China. It is also the best reason why trade deals work. They are binding on both parties in ways that are not purely political.
        I agree, China has much to atone for on other issues and matters. Trade is not one of them. Canada cannot sit on the sidelines and pick and choose trade partners based on emotional hurts/fears, rather it needs to do business.
        As I suggested, separate the rhetoric and personalities out from the discussion and take a more global perspective. Trade is the glue of democracy and makes us stronger and more influential over time.

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        1. I am not proposing NOT trading. I am proposing NOT doing trade enslaving deals like FIPA. Big difference. And, anyway……you think FIPA and NAFTA is fair to Canada? NOT a chance. NAFTA and FIPA simply give the bully-boys legal weapons with which to beat us. If you must do a deal with a bully, keep it short and take a shower afterwards. I admit that being a trading mouse is, in itself, a disadvantage that is inescapable but mice survive on their wits and speed. Signing FIPA is witless and speed is eliminated when it is a deal stretching 31 years. And – just so you know – the Chinese do NOT honour deals that don’t serve them the way they expected. One thing goes sideways (market price for dilbit, CNG or – as already proven – coal) and the Chinese simply bully their way to a new better price. And Canada can’t do that to them. FIPA is one-sided and stupid.

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        2. Sorry, Mike, but this is not a “trade deal,” it is an “investment protection” deal; it deals solely with corporate interests in either market. It does nothing to remedy trade, and does nothing to remedy consumer rights; it exclusively deals with the rights of “investment” to enter – without prejudice – each other’s market.
          However, the “deal” is decidedly one-sided: investors wishing to enter China’s market need to partner with Chinese nationals, while in Canada the same cannot be said of the other party.
          China has always held these cards with regard to foreign “investment.” What has happened in the past will continue to be the same, and be assured that Canadian “investors” will still have no remedy when (not “if”) the Chinese national partner confiscates the investment, with support from the Party.

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  3. Just be careful to make the distinction between the Chinese people and the Chinese government. Even the Chinese people are afraid of the Chinese government. Just as I hold myself (and my nose) apart from the Harper Conservatives representing Canada, I know the Chinese people hold themselves apart from what their government does. MIKE said, “Individuals, people and countries are more alike than different.” And that is NOT true. Individuals and people ARE more alike but governments aren’t. If you doubt that statement, ask an American or 60% of Canadians. Ask 90% of the Chinese. Hell, ask an Iraqi or a Liberian living in West Point. Governments are bullies. ALL governments.

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  4. beauregard

    If Ms Francis, hardly a supporter of left wing causes, is horrified by this, we should all pay heed. She suggests this may scuttle Harper’s dreams for Keystone. QP in the session starting today should be a hot one-as it should on this issue. Will it hurt the Tories in 2015? So many voters have forgotten what this is all about but will have months to be re-aquainted with its implications.

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  5. e.a.f.

    who does harper work for? China because he sure doesn’t work for Canada. This “deal” with China will cause us to loose sovereignty over much of our land. Can’t impede the Chinese government’s ability to make money. Ya that sounds like its really all abut Canada.

    Many of these companies which do business in Canada and the ones coming, are not owned by individuals or stockholders living in China. They are companies owned by the Government of China and/or the RED ARMY of China. Now isn’t that just a group you’d like to have running around your country. Not even their own citizens are that crazy about those two organizations and harper just gave them the keys to Canada.

    If this deal goes through, I do hope Quebec up and leaves. It will give us “Canadians” some place to live away from Chinese domination in what used to be our Canada.

    The government of China has oppressed and jailed environmentalists in China for protesting such things as toxic rivers, pollution, land that is no longer farmable. Now they want to come to Canada and do the same. Under this new free trade agreement, if a mine owned by China pollutes our watersheds, its too bad, so sad, get over it. China rules. thank you harper. now will some one arrest the guy for treason and check his bank account. If the guy actually did this for free, he is dumber than a sack of hammers.

    When harper came to office, he talked about how terrible the Chinese government was, the violation of human rights, the oppression. Now suddenly he wants to give them the keys to Canada. What changed harper?

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    1. Julie

      Nothing changed Harper. It’s just some of we people saw through Harper, a very long time ago. However, we are not permitted to say so, even if it is the truth. Why did Harper give the likes of Gordon Campbell, the post as High Commissioner to the U.K? While we know why? Others don’t.

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  6. Laila

    Very well said. The extent to which the Chinese government is already involved in our federal and provincial governments with respect to lobbying and input on foreign policy is staggering. For all appearances of being a modern democratic country,the Chinese Communist Party ruling the government is quick to put that to rest with actions including internet censorship and imprisonment/sanctions on those who are busy working for a true democracy in the country.

    Inconvenient truths many prefer to overlook. The Chinese governments record on human rights is still appalling.

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    1. Firstly, LY, there are no ‘appearances of being a modern Democratic country’. China does not even pretend to Democracy in any way. Ask Tibet. For that matter, ask Hong Kong – who have been told that they would have a semblance of such but discovered that they do not. That policy was called one country, two systems. And it is true – but only as far as free enterprise goes and even that is hardly true anymore (it was a bit in the 90’s). At a certain size, a company ‘gets’ a communist member employee who watches over your activities. There ain’t no Democracy in China.
      Mind you, there ain’t none here, either. A choice from amongst a few who were hand selected by the special few is NOT choice nor is it Democracy. We are just as forced to accept the government ‘elite’ as are the Chinese. The only difference? We can complain about it.

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      1. Laila

        I disagree- you would be surprised… and believe me I certainly was… but I recently conversed with someone who had no clue China’s government was still run by a communist party… 🙂

        And that wasnt the first time. Never forget how many people are not politically engaged in any form, nor do they care about such matters.

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        1. With respect (and you know I mean it) that encounter says more about the lack of knowledge of your friend than the perception by anyone that China has a democratic bone in it’s body. China is NOT really communistic either. Not in the sense that we have come to know it. But it is still and always will be Chinese. And the Chinese are ultimately pragmatic. They went communistic (in name) until Mao blew his and many million others feet off in all the great leaps this way and that. Then Deng Xiaoping decided that capitalism will work – which was a no-brainer because the Chinese had ‘night markets’ for decades under communist rules (I was there in 1981 and saw them). They took to Deng’s ‘new radical changes’ like mature ducks take to water. They knew how markets worked and they were just waiting to work ’em. But the key difference is this. Democracy is NOT capitalism and the Chinese can be and ARE great capitalists without letting anyone vote on anything. China is a capitalist country like the wild west was a capitalist region. NO rules cast in stone. And all rules that get written down are subject to change if they don’t work out for the Chinese. I admire the Chinese but I know that contracts mean nothing without great relationship.

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  7. Julie

    We have Chinese Canadian families, that have been in Canada for generations. They certainly helped to build this country. Would they vote for Harper? I think the last thing Chinese Canadians want, is Communism in this country.

    Canada is corrupt to the bare bones. And, whether anyone likes it or not? Harper and Gordon Campbell damned well did, deliberately, set out to dismantle BC.

    You would think some people could see through that? I guess I have a very long memory, I forget nothing.

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