More Transparency Needed Before Giving China Sweeping Powers
OTTAWA – Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, will rise today in the House of Commons following the conclusion of Routine Proceedings to request an Emergency Debate on the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). This follows the delivery of a notice of her intention to Speaker Andrew Scheer on Friday.
In her notice, May stated that the “grave and sweeping implications for Canada’s sovereignty, security, and democracy” posed by FIPA – signed by Stephen Harper on September 9, but kept from the public and Parliament until quietly tabled on Wednesday last week – warrants much greater transparency and debate.
According to the Policy on Tabling Treaties in Parliament, FIPA must be tabled in the House for 21 sitting days before it can be ratified. Then, the Privy Council can, without any public or Parliamentary consultation or review, sign it into law.
“I pointed out in my notice to the Speaker that this is perhaps the most significant trade agreement since NAFTA,” May stated, “and the fact that it can be negotiated and ratified behind closed doors is very corrosive to our democracy.
“I also realize that an emergency debate is far from sufficient under the circumstances, but it might be the only opportunity Parliamentarians have to review and discuss FIPA before we are bound to it for the next 15 years, especially if neither the NDP nor the Liberals focus on it during their Opposition Days.”
Among concerns that urgently need public scrutiny and discussion are:
Article 3, “Promotion and Admission of Investment” – This compels each party to encourage investments from the other, and admit investments as national laws permit. It could oblige Canada to approve Chinese investments that threaten our national security or are of marginal or negative “net benefit” to Canada – a term as yet undefined.
Access to investor-state arbitration and dispute resolution mechanisms – As with Chapter 11 in NAFTA, Chinese State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) have the right to sue the Canadian government for laws, regulations, even court decisions that might interfere with or prevent present or future profits. Unlike NAFTA, this can be done in secrecy with special tribunals. China recently claimed 3 Billion Euros in damages from Belgium for an investment failure.
Limited Access to Tribunals – Only the federal government can participate in the secret tribunals. Even if their interests are directly affected, provincial governments, Canadian companies, and others have no right of standing.
Performance Standards – China can impose conditions on foreign investors, such as the use of local suppliers, working with local business partners, training local workers and management, although Canada can't do the same.
National Treatment Provisions – These prevent federal, provincial, and municipal governments from setting conditions favouring Canadian workers or materials for projects within Canada.
Article 33(2)(c) – This binds Canada to restrict domestic access to our fossil fuels, uranium, forests, fish, and all exhaustible resources in equal measure to any restrictions placed on exports to China .
“Given the pending takeover of Nexen by the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company and the subsequent flood of investment by Chinese State-Owned Enterprises, I am amazed that Stephen Harper is willing to thrust Canada into such a vulnerable position with FIPA,” said May. “I know I’m not the only Canadian who feels our prime minister is giving away the store. We need to debate FIPA before it’s too late.”
Communications Coordinator, Green Party of Canada