China trade deal shrouded in secrecy and there has to be a reason

When the government goes out of its way to avoid the scrutiny of parliament on an important initiative you can bet that it is related to a controversial subject.  That is certainly the case with the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).  Announced as complete by the Prime Minister last February, the government only saw fit to table it in the House of Commons 21 days before it was set to come into force.  By keeping it hidden, they hoped to avoid a drawn out period of opposition, but that didn’t change the fact that it is a bad deal and the opposition is mounting.

New Democrats called on the government to bring the deal before parliament for debate.  Any deal as complete as the government claims this is, should be able to stand up to the scrutiny of parliamentarians and stakeholders, but the government declined. In doing so, they raise red-flags.

Now Canadians are becoming aware that a deal negotiated in secret and intentionally kept from the eyes of parliament will govern the foreign investment relationship between Canada and China for the next 31 years.  It was negotiated over an 18 year period that spanned multiple parliaments and saw the trade relationship flourish to the point that China is already a major stakeholder in Canada’s resource sector, and our stores are filled with cheap goods from that country.

Ultimately, this relationship has been a one way street with Canada surrendering resources gems and jobs.  It is now at the point that fish from Canada are flash frozen and sent to China to be processed and then shipped back to our stores.  While investors are maximizing profits our jobs are disappearing along with control of our resources.  Meanwhile, China’s influence on our government is growing.

Chinese state-owned resource company CNOOC’s attempt to take over Calgary based Nexen – a giant amongst the oil-sand companies is an example of China’s intentions in the FIPA.   What’s in it for Canadians is not clear, but China makes out like a bandit and they barely play by our rules.

The Chinese government is far less transparent than a good trading partner should be.  Recently, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei was blocked from expanding into the United States as Congress feared the move could give the state-sponsored company access to Americans' personal, government and corporate information.  That move was made because China is notorious for corporate espionage.

That kind of scrutiny seems to be lost on the Conservatives who seem mostly concerned with clearing the way for investors.  Why else would they avoid any parliamentary debate and review of the FIPA.  It is a bit odd that the Conservatives bristle at New Democrat policy and are openly hostile to unions but have little hesitation to sign a major trade agreement with China which remains a communist state and the sole owner of many companies investing in Canada.

This agreement will be in force for 31 years, yet the Conservatives only tabled the document in the House for 21 sitting days.  They are acting like police at the scene of an accident trying to get traffic moving with the claim “there’s nothing to see here folks,” and Canadians deserve better.