Oct 30, 2012 / 5:00 am
If you believe everything you read on the Internet and some letters to the editor, you have likely heard false and erroneous claims that Canada is essentially being given away to China as a result of a secret FIPA (foreign investment promotion and protection agreement) that has been hastily put together solely to give away our country’s natural resources. Let me state for the record that such claims are complete nonsense, and in many cases are intentionally fabricated falsehoods that use fear-mongering and misinformation in order to mislead others. While stating personal opinion is an important and fundamental aspect in our free and democratic society, I remain concerned how online information, or in this case misinformation, is increasingly being used in an effort to deliberately deceive Canadians. My report this week is not in any way intended to seek support from those who oppose measures that encourage trade but rather to provide factually correct information so citizens can have a more informed point of view.
What is a FIPA? Contrary to what you may have read, a FIPA is not a formal trade treaty but rather is an agreement between two different countries that outlines the rules, obligations, administration and dispute resolution mechanisms that can both protect and promote foreign investment in each other’s respective country. In essence a FIPA agreement establishes important guidelines that promote a fair and transparent process for those investors looking to do business in another country. FIPA agreements are not new, in fact the current proposed FIPA agreement with China actually began negotiation almost twenty years ago back in 1994. Further, these agreements are not “secret”! The current 31 page proposed Canada-China FIPA is publicly posted online with 24 other FIPA agreements that have been reached with various countries over the past two decades. Please contact me if you are interested in viewing any of these agreements.
Does a FIPA agreement “hand over” Canada’s Natural resources? Absolutely not and any claim that it does is patently false. Acquisitions of Canadian resources by foreign investors are subject to the Investment Canada Act that cannot be over ridden by a FIPA agreement. Further, it is specifically written into the Canada-China FIPA agreement that decisions made under the Investment Canada Act cannot be subject to the dispute settlement provisions in the FIPA agreement. I will be happy to share the exact language directly from the FIPA agreement on this or any point to confirm this information to anyone who is interested. With respect to the Parliamentary process on a FIPA agreement, these agreements must be tabled in the House of Commons for 21 sitting days of Parliament. During this time the Opposition, through Opposition day debates, has the opportunity to debate a FIPA agreement or any other issue. To date the Opposition parties have decided not to debate this particular FIPA agreement. I should also add that this particular FIPA agreement was brought forward and reviewed by the Standing Committee on International Trade at request of parliamentarians.
Why pursue a FIPA Agreement with China? Canadian exports to China have increased more than 27% since 2010 and as a result, China is now Canada’s third largest export merchandise market. Over the past five years Canada’s exports to China have increased by 77%. This past year British Columbia actually exported more lumber to China than to the United States. Several large scale employers and even some small business operations in Okanagan-Coquihalla are now exporting into the Asian marketplace. As China has one of the fastest growing economies in the World there are increasing opportunities for Canadian companies to grow and expand into China. However agreements like FIPA are necessary to protect Canadian investments and business dealings in foreign countries such as China to ensure our interests are protected by due process. I spoke to an owner of an industrial company several weeks ago as I wanted to know if he saw China as a potential market for his Canadian made specialty equipment for mining. He said that he thought it was a big opportunity but due to what he viewed as a lack of patent and investment protection, he wasn’t interested at this time. Currently Canada has an excellent reputation internationally for a safe place to do business and invest, largely due to our stable way of life and commitment to the rule of law. If we are to expect Canadian companies to grow and expand on their expertise, Government must build that certainty so our we and future generations can benefit from increased investment and expanded trade. I appreciate that there are always those individuals who oppose trade, however it should not in my view be overlooked that we have employers throughout Okanagan-Coquihalla who depend on access to foreign markets that help provide jobs locally and support our regional economy.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 1(800) 665-8711.
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