On Friday, the Harper government announced that it had ratified the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China. It has taken awhile. Apparently, several Conservatives were wary of the agreement. But, with the prime minister heading to China, they decided (or were told to) sign on to one for the Gipper.
Jeremy Nuttall writes in today's Tyee that Gus Van Harten -- who specializes in foreign treaties at Osgoode Hall -- believes that Canada will lose big with this agreement:
Van Harten said FIPA is practically a one-way deal in favour of China, and Ottawa needs to acknowledge the non-reciprocal aspects of the deal and explain why they would ratify it two years after it was first signed.
"It seems to me the federal government has conceded to China under pressure to give them this treaty," said Van Harten. "My guess is this is the price China has demanded to open its purse strings for investing in the resource sector in Canada."
He said China had ratified the deal right away and seemed to be getting antsy Canada had taken so long, even speculating the recent detentions of two Canadian coffee-shop owners in the country on accusations of spying may have been part of Beijing's pressure.
The government claims that Canadian and Chinese investors will operate under the same rules:
But Van Harten doesn't buy that line.
"One aspect of the treaty is it has an exclusion of all existing discriminatory measures in Canada or China," he said. "China, it's safe to say, has far more existing discriminatory measures than Canada does."
Local government rules or different tax rates will now be locked in under the agreement, giving Chinese officials a tool to punish any Canadian investors it wishes to, he said.
Nuttall prefaces his report with the story of Mark Kitto a British publish, who -- until recently -- operated in China:
In 2005 his business was taken from him by a partner who was Chinese, at the time a legal necessity for foreigners, in cahoots with the Chinese government in what has become one of the most fabled stories of expat anguish in China and the subject of Kitto's upcoming book That's China.
During his day in court during the dispute, Kitto managed to prove the conspiracy against him by producing a letter from the public relations arm of the communist party to his business partner instructing him to fabricate evidence for the case.
"In the letter that went from the state council of information office to the person they were asking to fabricate evidence included the line 'We need to teach this foreigner a lesson,'" Kitto said on the phone from England, where he now lives.
The judge sided with Kitto, but after taking a phone call came back and reversed the decision.
Apparently, Mr. Harper believes Canadians will not suffer the same fate. The March of Folly continues.