Monday, February 13, 2012

Barlow: a Leap Backward in FIPA betwen Canada and China

From Letters to the Editor, Globe and Mail, February 11, 2012
Leap backward

Stephen Harper has signed a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) with China that will give Canadian corporations investing in China the right to sue the Chinese government if there is an attempt to improve existing human rights, labour or environmental standards (A Leap Forward By Canada – editorial, Feb. 9). The Canada-China FIPA will, in fact, provide yet another barrier to badly needed reforms in China.
The same deal will give Chinese investors in the Alberta tar sands the right to sue the Canadian government if any new standards are introduced to reduce the current level of environmental damage to water, air and local communities of that industry. It will also give Chinese investors the right to stake a claim to the water they use in these operations.
This investment deal threatens human rights and environmental stewardship in Canada and China and makes it clear that Mr. Harper will put both on the backburner in his role as chief salesman for big business.
Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians
And, we all know that the Prime Minister will return to Canada and tell Canadians that his trip has been a success and that both human rights and the environment will be protected in both Canada and China under his leadership. It is as if the Canadian government leader has been seduced into a position of "maintaining the past" (lack of accomplishments in both files) in order to placate his Chinese hosts.
There is a phrase for tourists, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do!"
However, clearly, Mr. Harper sees himself still as as tourist, and not as leader of a government whose priorities do not conform with the minimal expectations of Canadians from whom he received his job.
Fortunately, with the job, unlike most university professors, does not come tenure and after another three years, Harper will have to face another election, putting his record both of accomplishments and of failures to the test of the public's judgement.
It will not be hard for most Canadians to realize that his government's cavalier dismissal of both human rights and environmental protection is not a trend we want to see become a tradition.
Unfortunately, Mr. Harper apparently did not read Henry Kissinger's new book, On China, before his trip, in order to discover that for centuries the Chinese have been very good at seducing their foreign guests with presents, and dinners and parades, without acceding to a single wish or item on their guests' agenda for the trip to their land. And as a potential leader capable of cracking that historic model clearly Mr. Harper is not up to the task. So now that Chinese investors can rest confident that their money will not be threatened by any new enhancements to environmental protection in the development of the tar sands, they will be encouraged to help Canada remain in the dark ages with them, on the need to take substantial measures to protect the environment.
Sadly, Canadian corporations investing in China have been provided a similar hedge, against any change in the rules that would help China to move to attending to human rights abuses and environmental protection in that country.
Does this whole agreement not sound more like Alice in the Underworld, where everything is the precise opposite of the way it ought to be? But I guess if Harper hasn't read Lewis Carroll's book either, he remains in the dark even about the literary models he seems to be following.

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