Canada needs more democratic debate about future of China relations, experts say

Canada is entering new territory in its relations with China, starting with a Canada-China foreign investment agreement, which is pending domestic approval. Experts call for more democratic debate on the agreement, and the future of Chinese investment in Canada's natural resources hangs in the balance.

What will be the future of Canada-China trade relations? Graphic by Beth Hong.

Expert opinions on whether or not the Canada-China investor protection and promotion agreement was a good deal for Canada range from moderate apprehension to alarm. But the one point on which almost all can agree upon is the need for the federal government to acknowledge and discuss Canadians' growing anxiety about Chinese ownership of Canada's natural resources.

Paul Evans, Director of the Institute of Asian Research at UBC and author of an upcoming book on Canada-China relations, said that developments in the last three months  namely, the Canada-China FIPPA and the Chinese state-owned enterprise China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)'s bid to take over Canadian energy giant Nexen  has put Canada at a historical crossroads.

The CNOOC US$15.1-billion bid will be the largest Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE) takeover of a Canadian natural resource firm in history, and will have implications for both countries' foreign and domestic policies.

Evans said Canadians need to question what the scope and direction of its economic and trade relationship with China will be.

"This is as important a question to Canada as it was at the end of the Second World War when we basically integrated our economy with the Americans through automobile agreements and the St.Lawrence Seaway," Evans told The Vancouver Observer.  

Evans, who takes a cautiously optimistic stance on FIPPA, said Canada needs a vigorous public debate moving forward with further deepening of Canada-China relations on multiple fronts.

"We need debate, we need public discussion, we need our universities to weigh in on issues including pipelines and public infrastructure," he said.

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