The investment agreement that came into effect between Canada and China on Oct. 1 should not worry Canadians.
This is the view of Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes, who responded to questions about the controversial Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), saying it is good for Canadians.
“I think most people do not understand the purpose of that FIPA agreement and that was simply to assure that Canadian investors that invest in China are kept to the same standards in China, as far as their investment, as Chinese business people.
When Chinese business people come here to Canada, they have to also basically live by the laws of the land. They’re not being given any sort of preferential treatment nor are Canadian business people so they can compete against any foreign investors… It’s almost like best practices as far as businesses in China –saying that (Canadian) investors in China will be protected or treated equally with the Chinese business community.”
Critics of the agreement have said that China benefits more than Canada, as both countries can keep existing restrictions. Other concerns expressed have centred around: • Chinese companies being able to seek compensation from the Canadian government if their projects are set back by factors that could include First Nations rights or environmental issues; • the stipulation that such cases can be decided by a secret tribunal; • the length of the deal, as it can’t be completely cancelled for 31 years, and • the apparent secrecy surrounding the signing of the deal. Critics point to the agreement not being ratified for two years after it was reached, with no public debate.
Mayes doesn’t see it as secretive.
“I’ve been here now for nine years and we were talking about it two years ago. It’s not as if it just came up. This has been discussed. The minister has been reporting on the progress, he’s confirmed what the purpose of the FIPA agreement is… This has been ongoing, it didn’t happen in the last month or two, it’s been going for a couple of years now.”
He also sees the three-decade term as a necessary thing for business.
“We have to remember that, let’s say, the Chinese come in here and spend multi-billions of dollars and it’s going to take them 25 to 30 years to get their investment back with hopefully a profit margin, or if Canadians are in China in the same circumstance, you just can’t, this is not a short-term thing. Businesses don’t invest billions in other countries and then expect to get their investment back or their return on investment in five or 10 years. It’s a long-term investment.”
As for secret tribunals deciding foreign companies’ claims against the government, Mayes says this is not giving them special privileges. He said such claims would only arise “if the Canadian government was treating a Chinese company differently than Canadian businesses.”