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UPDATE: Barlow says Harper’s trade agenda a barrier to human rights in China

The Canadian Press reports, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signed a slew of agreements Wednesday covering energy, natural resources, education, science and technology, and agriculture. Meeting in Beijing, the two leaders also capped 18 years of negotiations on an investment protection deal for Chinese and Canadian investors. Harper said negotiations on a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement (FIPA) between the two countries have concluded.”

“The foreign investment protection deal still needs to be legally reviewed and ratified by the Canadian and Chinese governments before it can come into force. In Canada, that will include debate in the House of Commons. But the deal is essentially done, the CBC’s Susan Lunn reported from Beijing. …Officials now expect it will be reviewed and ratified by both sides within a year, CBC’s Terry Milewski reported from Beijing.”

On Monday, we issued a media release that stated, “The signing of a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement with China during the Prime Minister’s state visit this week would be a sign the Harper government is only interested in protecting rights for some humans (and rich corporations) – not human rights generally… The organization opposes the FIPAs and other bilateral investment treaties which have been used extensively by corporations and investors to undermine the public good globally.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow states, “The political and human rights situation in China remains abysmal. Social unrest is increasing and the extent of environmental degradation from rapid industrialization is truly shocking. The last thing Canada should be pushing on that country right now is a legal right-of-way for Canadian corporations to challenge measures that interfere with their profits. China has been an attractive base for global manufacturing and exporters because of its abundant natural resources, extremely low wages and lax environmental standards. As Canada seeks closer trade and investment relations with China, the investor-state dispute process in a FIPA would just put another barrier in the way for needed reforms in all these areas. In other words, Harper’s trade agenda is a barrier to human rights improvement in China.”

That media release can be read at http://canadians.org/media/trade/2012/06-Feb-12.html.