Chinese trade deal bodes ill

Chinese trade deal bodes ill Open letter to International Trade Minister Ed Fast: It has come to my attention that Canada is on the threshold of signing a trade agreement with China. I have grave concerns about this treaty. Chinese exports to Canada are

Open letter to International Trade Minister Ed Fast:

It has come to my attention that Canada is on the threshold of signing a trade agreement with China. I have grave concerns about this treaty.

Chinese exports to Canada are roughly three times that of Canadian exports to China. Chinese direct investment in Canadian businesses lies at $10.5 billion. Canadian investments in Chinese businesses are only $4.5 billion.

The lopsidedness of this relationship leaves me uncomfortable. The treaty is rather like a negotiated deal between a mouse and a tiger. That the tiger is an authoritarian country with a terrible environmental and human rights track record is even more disturbing.

Under the proposed agreement disputes can be arbitrated internationally. According to law professor Gus Van Harten, “The treaty affects the Constitution. It allows arbitrators, beyond Canadian courts and, in some situations, any court, to review decisions of any legislature, government, court, tribunal, First Nation or municipality that affects any Chinese-owned asset.”

Mr. Van Harten goes on to observe that the arbitrators “can order an elected legislature to pay compensation to Chinese investors in situations where Canadian courts would not for reasons of legislative supremacy.”

This treaty locks us in for 30 years. The Conservative government’s 2012-2013 omnibus budget, Bill C-45, should it pass, pretty much wipes out what is left of environmental regulation and protection in Canada. Should an enlightened government wish to restore those protections in the future, they may not be able to do so under this treaty.

Furthermore, the Conservative government has been negotiating behind closed doors. In the Oct. 15 edition of Maclean’s magazine, you answered a reasonable question about transparency with, “We are not giving up transparency. Those who suggest otherwise are anti-investment and anti-trade.”

The promise to make dispute documents submitted to the tribunal public after the treaty is signed is hardly an act of transparency. Concerned Canadians wish to know the terms of the treaty before ratification.

Having a few opposition days to debate the treaty when information is being withheld is not acceptable or democratic.

Minister Fast, you should remember that over 60 per cent of Canadians did not endorse this government. The perpetual use of ad hominem when truthful answers to our concerns are required has become tiresome and predictable. Canadians deserve better from you and your colleagues.

Finally, I urge the minister and the Standing Committee on International Trade to vote in favour of Member of Parliament Don Davies’ motion to postpone ratification of the agreement and study the treaty.

Linda Leon


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