Canada China free trade: too bad to be true

Once in a while, a story comes along that just seems too bad to be true.

Once in a while, a story comes along that just seems too bad to be true. Reporting in the Tyee this week, Andrew Nikiforuk, a journalist who specializes in the oil industry, describes a deal in the making that will give the world’s most barbarous oligarchy enormous power over Canada’s internal affairs. Nikiforuk outlines how Stephen Harper has inked a quiet treaty with China that effectively throws away Canadian control over our resources.

While on a state visit to Vladivostok, Russia, last month, Harper signed the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), a NAFTA-like deal, which will permit Chinese state-owned corporations to push through projects that fail to meet Canadian regulatory standards, to use Chinese “guest workers,” and to sue any government that gets in the way.

In effect, China will have the unlimited right to bring in slave labour to haul away all our oil, gas and minerals at whatever price it chooses to set, no matter what the impact on our economy, our health, or our environment. In two weeks, FIPPA will pass into law, and with little fanfare Canada will be on the path to becoming an economic colony of China.

Is this really possible, that a prime minister of Canada could walk into a deal that bad? Could Nikiforuk, who is clearly no fan of Harper, be exaggerating the case? Sad to say, he appears to be right on the money.

Osgoode Hall law professor Gus Van Harten, a global authority on investment trade deals and international arbitration panels, has studied the agreement, and in a letter to Harper has outlined 14 reasons to be “deeply concerned” about this FIPPA, and urges the government to reconsider ratification of the deal.

According to Van Harten, the “legal consequences” of FIPPA are “irreversible by any Canadian court, legislature or other decision-maker for 31 years.” By contrast, the parties to NAFTA can back out six months after announcing the decision to do so.

He points out that though similar agreements Harper has signed have the same duration as the China deal, only this one puts Canada in a “capital importing position.” What this means is that Chinese investment in Canada will dwarf our future investment in China, so that almost all the benefits of the FIPPA go to Chinese companies, and to the shareholders of the Canadian resource corporations China will quite certainly be eager to buy.

Under the treaty, a Chinese company can sue a Canadian government for legislation that threatens its bottom line, requiring “only a minority share in any Canadian enterprise or other asset in Canada.” Indeed, according to Van Harten, on the day that this deal comes into effect, we may discover that Chinese corporations already own minority interests in Canadian resource companies through “a secrecy jurisdiction such as the Cayman Islands,” and be sitting poised to take advantage of FIPPA the moment it comes into effect.

One Chinese state-owned corporation that can expect to profit from the Harper giveaway is CNOOC, famous in Canada right now for its bid to purchase the Calgary oil company Nexen. CNOOC is also in the news for its brutal persecution of employees who practise the Falun Gong religion.

According to a story in the Epoch Times, CNOOC security agents regularly arrest Falun Gong practitioners and imprison them in “detention centres and brainwashing facilities.” Those whose brains remain unwashed of their beliefs are then sent on to labour camps, where, Falun Gong spokespeople in Canada allege, CNOOC has mined organs from prisoners’ bodies.

How did we arrive at the point where a Canadian government is selling the country’s economic sovereignty to a communist regime? In a word, desperation. According to Nikiforuk, “the incompetent petro state of Alberta has flooded the market with bitumen due to bad planning, low royalties and sheer stupidity.” Harper has pinned Canada’s economic future to the tarsands, and with U.S. oil consumption falling he desperately needs a new customer.

Sinister as China’s economic colonialism may be, there is an even darker side to this story. Nikiforuk quotes Australian defence analyst Captain David Hayward, who has studied “bludgeoning Chinese investment in the oil/gas industry across many nations,” and concluded that “in the climate of worsening weather patterns, continuing global financial meltdown and increasing energy resource scarcity, the probability of a military confrontation … has dramatically heightened.”

Given that CNOOC chair Wang Yilin has recently said “large-scale deepwater rigs are our mobile national territory and a strategic weapon,” even Harper might want to reconsider a deal that would help to install Chinese outposts in Canada.

In the future we may look back on October 2012 as the most important turning point in Canadian history. Will it be the point at which we seal our fate as China’s colony, controlled by the power of secret arbitration boards and the might of China’s navy? Or will it be the time when Canadians stand firm for our sovereignty, and tear up this insane agreement before it destroys us?

Al Pope won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in B.C./Yukon in 2010 and 2002.