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Canada-China Free Trade Agreement seen as profitable for Canadian water companies

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau both support pursuing a Canada-China FTA.

China faces huge water challenges.

The rapid industrialization of China has consumed massive amounts of water and has contributed to a terrible water crisis there. It has been estimated that 90 percent of groundwater in their cities and 75 percent of their rivers and lakes are polluted and as such some 700 million people drink contaminated water every day.

In this article in Water Canada magazine titled Canadian Water: Get Ready for a Free-Trade Deal With China, Jeff Sanford writes, “If a free trade agreement can be struck between the Canadian and Chinese governments, it seems Canadian water companies are on course to tap into a huge market.”

Sanford highlights:

Cleantech and remediation

1- “The amount of wastewater discharged in China increased from an astounding 41.5 billion tonnes in 2000 to 68.5 billion tonnes in 2012. …Céline Bak, president of Analytica Advisors, an Ottawa-based company that monitors and reports on Canada’s cleantech sector, [states that], ‘There are literally trillions of dollars’ worth of opportunities in terms of the remediation challenges’.”


2- “Wei Feng [a senior North American manager for the Chinese firm Umore Consulting says] projects typically take the form of a public-private partnership (P3), so foreign companies can retain ownership stakes in projects over the entire lifecycle.” Weng suggests that if a company can provide a wastewater treatment plant for 100,000 households, the Chinese government can guarantee $100 million over ten years to that company.

A Canada-China FTA could have other implications on water use as well:

Tar sands water use

3- Media reports suggest that the Chinese government want to have the limits on their state-owned enterprises investing in the tar sands lifted. Estimates vary, but in 2011 it is believed tar sands operations used about 170 million cubic metres of water, the same amount of water as 1.7 million homes in Canada. The tar sands also create 250 million litres of toxic waste every day.

Bottled water exports

4- The Globe and Mail has reported, “Using tax breaks and other forms of government encouragement, [China] wants its companies to bottle five million tonnes a year of Tibet water by 2020 and double that by 2025.” It’s not unreasonable to think that China might also see Canada as a source for bottled water.

Industrial water use in Canada

5- In May 2011, Globe and Mail columnist Eric Reguly wrote, “A UBS Investment Research study implies that water-intensive industries will have to migrate from water-scarce to water-rich regions of the planet. China’s semiconductor industry shares a troubling feature with China’s steel industry: Both use outrageous amounts of water in a country where water resources are getting scarce. Once you understand that China has to phase out its thirstiest industries or risk starving itself, you might see how water-rich Canada could emerge as one of the world’s great manufacturing countries.”

To raise your concerns about the Canada-China FTA in advance of the April 24-28 talks in Ottawa, please click here.