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Trudeau makes concessions to secure a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement

Premier Li and Prime Minister Trudeau.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to be making concessions demanded by the Chinese government in relation to the Canada-China Free Trade Agreement talks.

Among the Chinese government’s demands:

  • China’s Vice-Minister of Financial and Economic Affairs Han Jun has said his government wants a tar sands pipeline to the coast.

  • Vice-Minister Han and China’s Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye have both stated that China wants unfettered access for Chinese state-owned firms to invest in tar sands projects.

  • Ambassador Lu has also stated that Canada invoking national security to block state-owned companies from buying Canadian companies would be seen as trade protectionism.

  • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang wants an extradition treaty so that people accused of crimes who flee to Canada can be extradited back to China.

In turn, the Trudeau government:

  • has approved the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline to the British Columbia coast with export capacity to China.

  • is reviewing and expected to ease the restrictions on Chinese state-owned enterprise investments in tar sands operations.

  • has just approved O-Net (which is more than 25 per cent owned by a Chinese state-owned corporation) purchasing a Montreal high-tech firm that develops fibre-laser technology applicable for weapons.

  • is now negotiating an extradition treaty with China (despite their use of torture and the death penalty).

The Trudeau government also recently approved the purchase of a chain of twenty-four seniors care facilities in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec by Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group despite its murky ownership structure, civil society concerns, and the limits this places on new regulations to protect vulnerable seniors, ensure quality care, and maintain adequate staffing levels.

On September 22, 2016, Trudeau and Li announced that exploratory talks toward a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement would be launched. Those talks began on February 20 in Beijing. Four weeks later, on March 10, the Trudeau government began an online consultation seeking public input into a potential deal. The next round of Canada-China FTA talks will take place in Canada in April.

The Council of Canadians argues that a free-trade agreement would be bad for both the people of Canada and China.

An expansion of the tar sands and a pipeline to the coast violates Indigenous rights, worsens the climate crisis for all, and puts further pressure on finite water resources.

We share the concerns expressed by the Hupacasath First Nation when they challenged the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA) given its investor-state dispute settlement provision could be used to override Indigenous rights and is an infringement of their inherent Aboriginal Title and Rights.

We also have concerns about the implications of a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement with respect to increased Chinese mining operations in Canada and on First Nation territories, land grabs (as have been seen in Africa and other parts of the world, given China consumes about 20 per cent of the world’s food supplies, but has just 9 per cent of the world’s farmland), and the possibility of bottled water exports (various Canadian companies have already had bottled water exports to China in their business plans, Nestle has existing operations in China, China is now bottling water in Tibet, and sales of bottled water in China were expected to reach $16 billion this year).

Studies also show that ‘free trade’ deals like the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) cost jobs and worsen income inequality.

Charles Burton, a former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, has commented in The Globe and Mail, “Opinion polls indicate most Canadians do not want further political-economic integration with China, but elements of Canada’s business elite, with lucrative connections to Chinese business networks, are lobbying the Prime Minister’s Office hard to push on.”

To tell Prime Minister Trudeau to stop the current Canada-China FTA talks and to hold meaningful consultations with the broader public and First Nations about the implications of such an agreement, please see this online action alert.