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NEWS: A Canada-China ‘foreign investment and protection agreement’ imminent

Postmedia News reports, “Federal Trade Minister Ed Fast says he’s…confident Canada will soon ink a key trade deal with China and complete negotiations with the European Union in 2012. Fast said Monday he’s preparing for a trade mission next week to China – a country he believes is a key customer for Canada’s vast natural resources – and expects negotiations with the communist government on a foreign investment and protection agreement will be completed soon. A Canada-China free trade deal could be years away, however.”

“Canada and China are currently negotiating a foreign investment and protection agreement that will ‘set the ground rules for those who want to invest in China’ and for Chinese companies that want to do the same in Canada, he noted. The agreement also would establish a set of rules for resolving disputes when Canadians invest in China, added Fast…”

“Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said Canada must have a stronger trade relationship with China ‘but also one that deals with human rights issues’. Rae said he hopes the Harper government moves more quickly in negotiating a full free trade deal with the Asian country.”

Timeline/ background:

– May 2007: Then trade minister David Emerson said that he thought a Canada-China free trade agreement could be reached in two years. While that hasn’t happened, Emerson did indicate at that time that it was a priority for the Harper government.

– September 2009: Former prime minister Brian Mulroney said in a speech in Beijing, “A Canada-China investment agreement would send an important message to business and investors that foreign investment in both directions is a vital part of developing the full potential of the relationship.” He added, “There have been discussions about a Canada-China Investment Agreement for more than 10 years. The time has come to get it done.”

– December 2009: Just prior to his trip to China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “Our two countries enjoy a growing partnership, sharing significant interests in trade and investment, the environment and regional security.” The Globe and Mail reported at that time, “One Conservative… underlined how Canada cannot rely on the U.S. as its dominant trading partner, and had to look harder at emerging partners like China.”

– June 2010: The Toronto Star reported, “China’s President Hu Jintao will make an official state visit to Ottawa… Top of the list of issues to be discussed during Hu’s visit will be energy. With its economy continuing to boom, China has become increasingly attracted to energy resources around the world, and Canada’s oil and gas supplies are no exception. Preparations are already underway for the signing of energy agreements between Canada and China that could come as early as next week – or soon after.”

– November 2010: The final communiqué of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (which includes Canada and China) stated, “We will take concrete steps toward realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (by 2020)…”

– July 2011: The Globe and Mail reported, “John Baird travelled to China, just weeks after being appointed Foreign Minister, conceding that the world’s largest exporter is ‘incredibly important’ to Canada’s future prosperity.”

– August 2011: The Globe and Mail reported, “Since winning a majority this spring, the (Harper) government has ramped up its focus on China, which is now the world’s second-largest economy and Canada’s second-largest trading partner, behind the United States. …In the fall (reportedly in November), Mr. Harper is expected to travel to China, where he will be under pressure to win an investment-protection agreement that would shield Canadian businesses operating in China from unfair treatment. In return, China hopes Canada will permit Chinese companies to increase the amount of investment in Canadian resource companies producing minerals, lumber, oil and gas and other commodities needed to fuel China’s fast-growing economy.” It now appears that Fast will be travelling to China in Harper’s place.

Concerns about water, the Arctic and the tar sands:

– September 2009: The Globe and Mail reported that, “Calgary-based Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. (has) sold a 60-per-cent interest in two of its undeveloped projects near Fort McMurray to the international unit of PetroChina Co. Ltd. (whose parent is the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp.).” These “undeveloped projects” contain an estimated 5 billion barrels of tar sands oil. National Post columnist Don Martin has written that tar sands exports to China, “will require Canada, whose pipelines now head only north and south, to punch a hole in the Rockies and open up a crude flow to the west coast, from where oil could head overseas.” Martin was referencing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

– March 2010: Michael Byers wrote in the Ottawa Citizen that, “China’s major interest (in the Arctic) concerns the shipping routes being opened by the melting sea-ice. Different routes will be used depending on origins and destinations: Liquefied natural gas from the Barents Sea will be sent to Shanghai through Russia’s Northern Sea Route; luxury German cars will go straight ‘over the top’; and Chinese goods headed for the eastern US will use the Northwest Passage.”

– 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. (A standard circular wafer-sized semiconductor with a diameter of 300 millimetres requires almost 10,000 litres of water.) 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… Canada could even emerge as a semiconductor manufacturer. …Every few years, some Canadian entrepreneur hatches an idea to export bulk water to the United States or elsewhere by pipeline or tanker ship. Each effort has failed. But with bulk-water export legislation open to interpretation, and the United States getting thirstier, the next attempt could succeed. That would be economic stupidity. Best to make the jobs come to the water instead.”