A cross-country letter writing campaign is taking aim at the recently negotiated Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).
“I’m not sure why this suddenly seems to be becoming an issue,” said MP Ray Boughen (Palliser), “I think the opposition became aware of this FIPA agreement some time ago... they actually had three days in the House (but) they didn't acknowledge the negotiations.”
The FIPA agreement between Canada and China was signed by Ed Fast, Canada’s Minister of International Trade and the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Chen Deming, China’s Minister of Commerce, in early September.
According to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, 24 FIPA agreements have already been brought into force and an additional eight negotiations have been concluded. Canada has concluded or brought into force negotiations with 12 countries since 2006 alone, with an additional 13 countries in active negotiations.
China is the latest to conclude negotiations.
“From our point of view, we look at relationships with China as very desirable,” said Boughen, noting that China’s economy is rapidly expanding and is already the world’s second-largest.
In 2011, Canadian investment in China amounted to $4.5 billion. Almost $11 billion was invested in Canada by Chinese interests.
According to letters received by the Times-Herald, large-scale corporate buy-outs and the exploitation of Canadian natural resources by the Chinese government are likely outcomes of the agreement.
Boughen sought to allay those concerns.
“They (Chinese companies), like any other company, can attempt to buy them out,” Boughen said, “(but) any foreign move has to have the approval of the federal government, and that approval doesn’t come easily.”
Boughen pointed to the rejected buy-out bid made by BHP Potash in 2010 as an example of the difficulties facing foreign buy-out proposals, and trumpeted the efforts of the federal and provincial governments in bringing BHP to Saskatchewan with its Jensen potash mine.
“(They) were encouraged to do business in the province... they were told, ‘you could build a mine but you’re doing it on property that is owned by Canada,’” said Boughen.
“We are open to business, but we’re not going to give up land owned by Canada.”
Another common thread in the letters received was that Chinese companies could sue Canadian governments on all three levels in “secret tribunals” that weren’t governed by Canadian law, but Boughen dismissed the claims.
“If you are going to sue somebody, you’ve got to stand up and state your case,” he said.
The FIPA agreement will become law on November 2.