Chinese trade deal would tie our hands

Chinese trade deal would tie our hands Open letter to Premier Darrell Pasloski: Your recent travels to China as part of a trade delegation and subsequent public statements indicate that you place importance on the economic relationship with China, parti

Open letter to Premier Darrell Pasloski:

Your recent travels to China as part of a trade delegation and subsequent public statements indicate that you place importance on the economic relationship with China, particularly in terms of China’s interest in Yukon’s abundant mineral and oil and gas resources.

As premier, I presume you are aware that the federal government is planning to ratify the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement on Nov. 1.

The Yukon NDP Official Opposition believes this investment treaty raises a number of serious issues including:

* If ratified, it will tie the hands of future elected governments for at least 31 years;

* The provisions of this agreement severely restrict the abilities of future governments to change or adapt their legislative and regulatory frameworks in response to changing circumstances;

* The Canada-China deal undermines basic Canadian principles of public accountability and open courts by sending disputes to a secretive arbitration panel;

* It raises dramatically the stakes of Chinese takeovers in the natural resource sector; and

* It raises question about how First Nations’ Section 35 constitutional rights are protected, or whether the requirement to consult with First Nations has been addressed.

Yukon is at the beginning of a long, and one hopes, productive process of resource extraction and development. Government of Yukon numbers suggest that $700 million in Asian investment have entered the Yukon, and that this investment will grow over time.

If this treaty becomes law, Yukon will not be masters in our own house. Any future Yukon government action to get a fair return for our wealth could be subject to closed door arbitration. The same would apply to new environmental rules or employment equity programs or new rules respecting temporary foreign workers.

The ability of federal, provincial and territorial governments to make laws in the best interests of our citizens is undermined by the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). And unnamed and unaccountable panel of arbitrators could direct democratically elected governments. Trade is one thing; but any international treaty should not throw away Canadians’ democratic rights and freedoms.

According to international investment law expert Gus Van Harten: “This treaty will have major implications for core elements of Canadian legislative and judicial sovereignty. It will tie the hands of all levels and branches of government in Canada in relation to any Chinese owned asset in ways that many governments in Canada, I suspect, have not considered closely. The implications will be legally irreversible by any Canadian court or other decision maker for at least 31 years.”

I am calling upon you as premier to tell Yukoners, in clear terms, your views on the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. Will you tell the prime minister that until there has been a full public consultation on this game-changer of a trade agreement that the federal government should not ram it through Parliament?

Liz Hanson

Leader, Yukon NDP Official

Opposition