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Maple Ridge Conservatives, NDP debate trade deal with China

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP Randy Kamp defends trade pact with China. - Contributed
Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP Randy Kamp defends trade pact with China.
— image credit: Contributed

The new trade pact reached with China will let Canada compete globally and create jobs at home, the local MP says in defence of the deal.

“It establishes a clear set of rules under which investments are made and under which investment disputes are resolved,” Randy Kamp says in a submission to The News.

He adds that Canadian businesses will no longer have to rely on the Chinese legal system to have their disputes resolved.

Besides, Canada is now part of a group including New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Japan, who have all signed investment treaties with China on similar or less favourable terms, says the representative for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission.

“This is very classic Randy Kamp,” said NDPer Elizabeth Rosenau.

“By making a statement like that [other countries have signed similar agreements], he’s relying on people’s ignorance to believe it.”

Who has the time to research that, she asked.

Rosenau says the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, soon to be ratified, is proof that the Conservative policy of low corporate taxes isn’t working.

Companies are not investing those tax savings in the Canadian economy and Canada is allowing that money to be invested “in an economy where people are treated pretty close to being slaves.”

She adds that the government’s “free market fundamentalism” is “absurd” when it allows stated-owned companies from Communist countries to take over control of resources.

“I think that our federal government should have an energy strategy that ensures that our resources will be used to meet the needs of our own citizens well into the future.”

Rosenau is also concerned about the agreement allowing Chinese companies to sue the government if regulations interfere with profits, pointing out that’s happened in some European countries, costing millions in taxpayer dollars.

She says the Conservatives have been gutting environmental protection laws so that if a future government tried to strengthen the laws on the environment, the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement would prevent that.

“We’re going to be held for ransom by them because we’re not going to be able to change them. They’re attempting to govern far beyond their mandate in an area that is very dear to the rest of us.”

Kamp, though, says the agreement does not “restrict Canada’s ability to regulate and legislate in areas such as the environment, culture, safety, health and conservation” – but he does not cite references to substantiate that.

And he says the agreement is the first that China has signed that “expressly includes language on transparency of dispute settlement proceedings.”

Kamp said it’s “Canada’s long-standing policy that all dispute resolution should be open to the public and that the submissions by the parties be made available to the public.”

But he doesn’t say if or where or how the agreement ensures that the public dispute resolution will take place. He only says that decisions of arbitration panels would be made public.

According to Article 26 of FIPA, tribunal hearings will follow those set out by the UN Commission on International Trade Law, which says hearings will take place in secret, unless the parties agree otherwise.

He points out that Canada also will be able to review foreign investments under the Investment Canada Act to ensure they provide a net benefit to Canadians. Under the treaty, “Chinese investors in Canada must obey all of the laws and regulations of Canada, just as any Canadian must.”

Kamp said the Canada-China FIPA was tabled on Sept. 26, prior to its formal ratification. The Conservatives first introduced that policy, requiring treaties to be table in the House for 21 days before ratification, he pointed out.

Since then, Opposition parties have been given four “Opposition days,” when they can debate issues of their own choosing. But the NDP and Liberals haven’t done so, he said.

Rosenau said Conservative-dominated committees in Ottawa make that difficult to do because often discussion goes behind closed doors, and the Opposition didn’t have enough time to react to huge amounts of legislation.

“How quickly can you react to that?”

There hasn’t been a good public discussion about the deal, she said, and that people need time to digest such legislation, she added.

The Canada-China FIPA negotiation has been completed and agreement reached, but hasn’t yet received cabinet approval and has yet to come into force.

 

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