An attempt by Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan to sell his government’s pending trade deal with China has raised the hackles of the Campbell River Chapter of the Council of Canadians.
Duncan’s “statement” to constituents – crafted for him in Ottawa – claims the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement is designed “to protect Canadian investors in China through stable, predictable rules and to protect them against discriminatory and arbitrary practices without diminishing Canadian governments’ ability to legislate for Canadian purposes.”
But Council of Canadians spokesperson Joanne Banks counters that the “treaty would allow Chinese companies to challenge democratic decisions made in Canada in arbitration processes that are not subject to the Canadian legal system.” She also charges that the lopsided agreement will expose Canada to legal liabilities when the Chinese challenge government trade policies they don’t like.
The Duncan document emphasizes the benefits to Canada and its obligations on the Chinese not vice versa. “The main purpose of a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) is to ensure Canadian investors in a foreign jurisdiction greater protection against discriminatory and wholly arbitrary practices, provide adequate and prompt compensation in the event of an expropriation and enhance predictability of the policy framework affecting investors and their investments in the foreign jurisdiction,” he states.
Banks says this simply masks the fact that “there are huge issues in this deal, one of which is that all disputes are resolved under international arbitration. This treaty would allow Chinese companies to challenge democratic decisions made in Canada in arbitration processes that are not subject to the Canadian legal system.”
The agreement does not impair Canada’s ability to regulate and legislate in areas such as the environment, culture, safety, health and conservation, Duncan claims. “Under this treaty, Chinese investors in Canada must obey all of the laws and regulations of Canada.”
The MP also says Canadians have been given lots of opportunity to review the deal.
“Every single treaty is now tabled in the house for 21 days to give the opposition an opportunity to debate the treaty,” Duncan noted.
That’s not good enough, says Banks. “If this government was truly transparent and was serious about making a well-informed decision, then it needs to establish an independent commission to do an in-depth study and report publicly on the costs and benefits of FIPA to Canadians. So far Canadians have been limited to five weeks notice and little opportunity for scrutiny and debate.”