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article imageInterview: MP Don Davies discusses the Canada-China pact FIPPA Special

By Grace C. Visconti     Jun 11, 2013 in Environment
Vancouver - MP Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway) discusses implications of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA or FIPA), encourages transparency and consultation with Canadians and First Nations before it’s ratified.
In this brief informative interview for Digital Journal, Don Davies, MP for Vancouver Kingsway, discusses the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA or FIPA). A lengthy detailed audio interview Don Davies on Canada-China FIPPA regarding the serious concerns of this agreement can be listened to here.
This “biased” deal in favour of the foreign investor will be in place for 31 years. By that time, Canada’s rich resources will have been extracted for another country’s profit while disregarding the rights of Canadians and First Nations in their own country. With the passing of Bills C38 and C45 where environmental laws were gutted or deleted altogether, it brings the serious consequences of FIPPA closer to reality if it’s finally ratified as is without debate.
It’s important that Canadians be well informed. Check out the FIPPA Facts page that gives a comprehensive look at what’s wrong with this agreement for Canada, especially since a debate is not forthcoming which would enable transparency and allow opposition parties to challenge key points in the agreement. In this point-by-point rebuttal of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spin on FIPPA, Gus Van Harten, lawyer and Professor at Osgoode Law School, breaks it down in Taking Apart Tories’ Party Line on China-Canada Treaty.
  
INTERVIEW
Why is there a lack of transparency with this particular trade deal? What is being hidden in this trade deal that cannot be discussed in the open and debated in Parliament and with Canadians?

Unfortunately, the clear practice under the Conservatives is to be extremely secretive with regards to the negotiating and substance of trade and investment deals. To answer the question of why there is a lack of transparency, one must really ask the Government. However, we would suggest the lack of transparency is due to the strategic and tactical approach of the Harper government who seek to control information, limit criticism and shut out constructive dialogue from disparate sources with whom they disagree.
As the Official Opposition, New Democrats have pursued all Parliamentary options to shed light on the FIPPA. We have called for committee studies, ministerial testimony, a Take Note Debate, and an Emergency Debate. These were all rejected by the Government. We have asked the Government multiple questions in Question Period and received answers without substance. Finally, we presented a motion in the House not to proceed with the ratification of the FIPPA in its current form. Unfortunately, our motion was defeated. Both Conservatives and Liberals voted against our motion.
Items of particular concern that are being “hidden” include the implications of granting foreign investors national treatment for investments in Canadian strategic sectors (like energy), the list of “non-conforming measures” that each country is allowed to maintain after ratifying the deal and details of the secretive arbitration process available to investors to resolve complaints.
  
In your response to the Canada-China FIPPA, as the Official Opposition Trade Critic, you claim that, “The pact does not guarantee Canadian investors full reciprocity with the rights that Chinese investors have secured and has a clause binding Canada for a period of 31 years.” Can you explain who this deal is for, why it will not fully benefit Canadian investors, and how could it be passed if it is one-sided in favour of foreign investors?

Investment and trade treaties are supposed to create a ‘level playing field’ for investors in both countries. However, this FIPPA deal does not require either government to change any existing regulations or practices that currently exist that inhibit investment; the FIPPA explicitly allows both countries to maintain “non-conforming measures.” Such measures include requirements to use local suppliers of goods, services and labour and/or to enter into partnerships with local businesses. This aspect creates an imbalance because China, a command economy, has many regulations and measures that do not conform with the principles of liberalized investment. Canada, on the other hand, has been liberalizing trade and investment rules for thirty years and has far fewer protectionist rules. Therefore, this deal will subject Canadian investors in China to far more barriers than will Canada to Chinese investors.
  
Why do the New Democrats believe that the only responsible position is to stop FIPPA? Can there be a compromise if FIPPA is debated and then rewritten in a collaborative way to bring harmony in the House of Commons, appease Canadians and First Nations about FIPPA?

New Democrats are not opposed to the concept of investment protection agreements. Designed properly, they can create stability for investors while protecting the ability of governments to make policy in the public interest.
This FIPPA, however, is not acceptable in its current form. The transparency issues, alone, are unacceptable in a modern democracy. Unfortunately, the treaty cannot be unilaterally changed by Canada because it is a treaty between two countries. For this reason, the only responsible course of action is not to ratify the treaty unless its serious problems are addressed.
New Democrats believe that the FIPPA should be studied by Parliamentarians in an open, detailed manner. We should invite a broad array of stakeholders (business, provinces, labour, trade experts, First Nations, the public and others) to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade and provide their perspectives and suggestions. Once broad consultations and an accurate understanding of the deal are complete, New Democrats believe Canada should negotiate improvements to the deal with the Chinese government.
  
How would the New Democrats preserve Canada’s natural resources? What kind of law would you pass and what would be the parameters for foreign investors? In other words, what would be a comparable trade agreement for foreign investors?

Canada’s natural resources ought to be developed by and for Canadians. Key, strategic economic sectors like energy must be carefully managed to ensure that economic benefits flow to Canada, energy security is achieved and environmental considerations are met. A made–in-Canada, national energy strategy that encourages value-added production in Canada is essential.
Foreign investors ought to be treated fairly. All investors have a right not to have their property confiscated without fair compensation. However, disputes must be resolved in fair, transparent and objective manners in conformity with the rule of law. We believe that commercial interests must not infringe on the ability of democratic governments to legislate in the public interest.
  
How can the New Democrats protect labour standards, human rights, and the environment when the omnibus Bills C38 and C45 were passed thereby gutting a number of rights for the sake of corporate profit?

The best thing we can do to advance a balanced approach to trade and investment policy that recognizes and protects environmental, labour and human rights is to convince Canadians to elect a New Democrat government in 2015. Canadians are progressive, caring and socially conscious people, but those values are not reflected in either the current government, or the Liberal government that preceded it.
In the context of this majority government, we must continue to scrutinize these bills, propose amendments and hold the Government to account on their agenda. The public plays a crucial role in a democracy, and the New Democrats will continue to publicize and bring to all Canadians’ attention the important issues at stake in trade and investment policy. We believe by engaging and informing Canadians, Canada’s policies will be improved.
  
The links and videos below give both sides of the debate.
LINKS:
One organization that is very proactive in mobilizing communities and keeping people informed via email campaigns about FIPPA and other important democratic issues, is Leadnow.ca (people powered change), an independent advocacy organization that brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy.
Canada-China deals keep coming: 20 new agreements
  
THE CURRENT (CBC AUDIO LINK)
Canada-China Agreement (FIPA) (Gives both sides of the debate – worth listening to as David Fung, Vice Chair of the Canada-China Business Council and the Investment Champion for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade [Vancouver] debates with Gus Van Harten, Osgoode Law Professor, an International and Investment Law and Treaty Expert [Toronto]. Also, Van Harten discusses Canada’s rule of law which is part of our democracy.)
  
VIDEOS
FIPA: The Greatest Threat to Canada's Future
China Investment Vs. Canadian Democracy
Both sides of the Canada China investment treaty
Stop the Canada China FIPA (Hupacasath First Nation)
Chief Adam: Water is at risk with Bill C-45 and FIPA (Part 2)
Grassroots movement Idle No More fueled by Bill C45 – Tanya Kappo
Don Davies asks about FIPA ratification, consultation with First Nations
In The House - The Canada-China FIPA Deal
More about fippa, FIPA, Agreement, Canadachina pact, First nations
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