Carol Linnitt's blog
Right now Canadians stare down the barrel of a 31-year long legal trade agreement with the Chinese government that did not become public knowledge until September 26, 2012.
The trade treaty, known as the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement or FIPA, has garnered notable opposition in the past three weeks, with NDP trade critic Don Davies calling for public hearings, Green Party MP Elizabeth May calling for an emergency Parliamentary debate, and campaign organizations Leadnow.ca and SumofUs.org gathering over 39,300 opposition signatures (and counting) to deliver in person to Ottawa.
Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported the Harper government's refusal to host public hearings. Elizabeth May's October 1 request was also denied on the grounds that FIPA does not meet the test of emergency.
The trade agreement, or treaty, as it is called, is slated for ratification at the end of this month. The Commons trade committee will be briefed on the document in a one hour hearing.
With a trade deal that threatens Canadian sovereignty looming on the horizon and a government committed to expediting its approval, DeSmog caught up with trade investment lawyer and Osgoode professor Gus Van Harten to talk through some of the details.
I recently picked up a copy of Francis Fukuyama's 2011 book, The Origins of Political Order. Sitting on the bedside table at the house I was staying at, the book made for some 'light' bedtime reading. I heaved the enormous tome onto my lap and, opening it to a random page, read this alarming passage:
There is no rule of law in China today: the Chinese Communist Party does not accept the authority of any other institution in China as superior to it or able to overturn its decisions. Although the People's Republic of China has a constitution, the party makes the constitution rather than the reverse. If the current Chinese government wanted to nationalize all existing foreign investments, or renationalize the holdings of private individuals and return the country to Maoism, there is no legal framework preventing it from doing so. (Pg 248)
My concerns with China's treatment of foreign investments arose in light of China's recent bid for Nexen, a Canadian company with large holdings in the Alberta tar sands. Since Canada is having trouble with the management of the tar sands now, what would it look like if we had Chinese state-owned enterprises like the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) in the mix?
It turns out the problem is of magnitudes greater than I had originally conceived, and concerns not only Canada's management of its resources, but its sovereignty, its democracy, and the protection of the rights and values of its citizens.
Perhaps most strikingly, Canada is embracing this threat, showing telltale signs the real culprit in this dangerous deal isn't China at all.
In order to untangle the web of an international trade deal as complex as the China-Canada Investment Treaty, which establishes the terms of the Nexen deal - the biggest overseas takeover by a Chinese company - I spoke with Professor Gus Van Harten of Osgoode Law School, an expert on foreign investment deals of this sort.
Below is Part 1 of our interview:
Enbridge recently launched a renewed attack on Canadian environmental organizations, demanding the panel overseeing the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearing squeeze funding information from the project's critics.
In early 2012, a campaign - coordinated by the conservative government, the oil industry and the astroturf Ethical Oil Institute - sought to undermine the credibility of groups opposing the pipeline by suggesting they are “foreign interest groups” that “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda” as Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver so forcefully put it.
Now Enbridge is renewing that egregious attack by requesting the panel investigate funding granted to Canadian environmental groups from a number of prominent American foundations renowned for their work in social and environmental equity, including poverty reduction, aboriginal issues, conservation, resource management, international development, and children and peace initiatives.
But Enbridge's ploy to redirect public attention away from tar sands, pipeline and oil spill issues toward the meddling of foreign interests in Canadian affairs is misguided, to say the least. The lion's share of foreign funding that guides the Canadian resource economy does not come in the form of conservation or environmental efforts: it comes through foreign investment in the resource sector.
And in the instance of the tar sands and related pipelines, foreign investments can be a politically, environmentally and socially dangerous affair.
This week, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), an industry-funded consultancy group in Alberta, released the End Pit Lakes Guidance Document to the Government of Alberta for review. The 434-page document outlines a 100-year plan to integrate open-pit mines and tar sands tailings into Northern Alberta's local ecosystem, introducing what they call a 'reclaimed lake district' as a long-term alternative to the temporary tailings ponds that currently hold the billions of gallons of water, sand, clay, hydrocarbons, naphthenic acids, salt and other byproducts of the bitumen extraction and upgrading process.
The news of Royal-Dutch Shell's recent decision to hold off on Arctic drilling until next season offers some relief to those keeping track of the company's shoddy performance in Alaska to date. Shell advertised their position as “Arctic Ready,” suggesting their out of date drill rigs, their non-existent disaster spill response, and their technical know-how were 'ready' to take on the temperamental Arctic.