IN THE NEWS ~ Critics charge investment treaty with China will turn Canada into 'resource colony'

Critics charge investment treaty with China will turn Canada into
'resource colony'

Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - An investment treaty with China that would turn Canada into a
"resource colony" is about to be ratified despite almost no
parliamentary debate, opposition critics charge.

Bolstered by more than 60,000 signatures on petitions and a finely
targeted letter-writing campaign led by activists, the opposition NDP, Liberals
and Green party Leader Elizabeth May are opening a last-minute push for a
fuller debate on the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China.

"China is just as important as the United States and we should
really be treating this treaty with just the same level of public scrutiny and
debate as NAFTA," said Matthew Carroll, campaigns director for Leadnow.ca,
an advocacy group that organized the petition and has flooded MPs with emails
and letters.

Canada and China signed the agreement at the beginning of September, and
the government tabled it in the House of Commons near the end of that month. Under new rules set by the Conservatives, the agreement must be before Parliament for 21 sitting days before it can be ratified.

That time runs out on Thursday. After that, the cabinet needs to sign
off on it through an order-in-council. It's not an automatic process, but the
Conservatives have given every indication that ratification is eminent.

The agreement comes into force when both countries have ratified it.

"With this agreement, our government is bringing to Canadian
investors the protection and predictability to invest with confidence in China,
the world's second largest economy," Rudy Husny, a spokesman for
International Trade Minister Ed Fast, said in a statement when asked if the
government would be willing to hold off on ratification to allow for more
debate.

The agreement has been 18 years in the making and is a replica of many
other foreign investment protection agreements Canada has with its trading
partners, he said.

The opposition has had ample opportunity to examine the China deal, but chose
to use its four opposition days in Parliament on other subjects, he added.
Plus, government officials have briefed MPs on the deal, he said.

"The NDP and the Liberals are simply misleading Canadians."

But critics argue that the deal should have gone before parliamentary
committees to be examined by experts for its implications as well as for flaws
and weaknesses.

"We have a government that is refusing normal, democratic
process," said the NDP energy & natural resources critic Peter Julian.

May argues that the deal would give Chinese corporations - and the
government that owns them - new powers to influence Canadian policy, not just
in terms of investment and industrial development, but also in the realms of
environment and health. And since Canada is clearly the junior partner in the
trading relationship, Canadian governments at all levels will have little
choice but to cater to the whims of a China desperate for natural resources.

"We become the resource colony in that context," said May.

As of the end of 2011, Chinese direct investment in Canada totalled
$10.9 billion, while Canadian investment in China was $4.5 billion.

Canadian business has long complained that the investment climate in
China is too uncertain to warrant major increases in investment and has
repeatedly urged Ottawa to sign a deal to ensure Canadian interests are treated
just like other investors in China.

But the investment agreement is going through the procedural hoops in
Ottawa at a sensitive time in the Canada-China business relationship. The
government is in the midst of deciding whether to approve the proposed
$15.1-billion takeover of Calgary-based Nexen Inc., by the China National
Offshore Oil Corp.

Industry Canada has until Nov. 11 to say whether it believes the
takeover is in the country's best interests - a deadline that could be extended
if both Ottawa and CNOOC agree.

The CNOOC deal and the foreign investment pact are separate processes,
but the federal government faces similar criticisms in its handling of both:
that they have not been subject to public scrutiny and that Ottawa risks giving
up too much power to the Chinese government.

Indeed, Leadnow.ca addresses both processes in the same breath:
"Stop the Canada-China FIPA investment deal and Nexen takeover," the
group's petition urges.

"These agreements would pave the way for a massive natural-resource
buyout and allow foreign corporations to sue the Canadian government in secret
tribunals."