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Forging the chains that chaffe

Canadian Politics

The Harper government’s foreign policy amounts to dissing the UN, slavishly supporting Israel right or wrong, scolding the EU (while promoting a banking policy they opposed in opposition), and signing economic agreements with anyone with a pulse. John Baird managed to accomplish the first two at one blow last week by opposing the Palestinian Authority’s bid for recognition as a non-member observer state.

We were one of 9 nations who voted against the UN motion; 138 voted for it. Mr Baird denounced the vote as unilateral and an impediment to peace. Sorry, I’m not sure how a 138-to-9 vote is unilateral, and I always thought the more people talking around the same table was an encouragement to peace. The Palestinian Authority is not Hamas.

I know that the Harper Government likes to to refer to its [“principled” policy}(http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/op-ed/principled+policy+Middle+East/7255794/story.html) in the Middle East but just how principled is it to favour one combatant over another in an area that’s like a telephone booth packed with dynamite.

As for scolding the European Union, well, one of their members just poached our chief banker. Now what, Mr Flaherty?

The rest of this post deals with the Harper Government’s ‘leaked’ policy to pursue economic ties with other nations, particularly the third world and China at any cost. And the cost, to Canadians and our thrid world partners will be high. Here are three mini-essays to explain why

A Flip of the Finger for this FIPA

Of the 16 trade disputes we launched under NAFTA, we’ve lost every one. US companies, on the other hand, have won most of theirs and they’ve taken home $170 million of our money in compensation.

So when I look at the deal our PM signed with China in September, I worry. And you should too.

If China doesn’t like something we do to protect our environment or our health, it will sue us … not in open court, but in secret arbitration.

An example is needed.

Let’s say a Chinese company wants to set up a huge wind farm in Grey and Bruce Counties and they meet all our governments’ existing criteria.

Let’s say you and your municipality don’t like where the windmills are going, or their numbers, or how the company does business. (China, by the way, is a major manufacturer of wind turbines now, and under this agreement, it has no obligation to use turbines we build, or to hire locally.)

So your municipality passes a bylaw that blocks construction. The Chinese consider that to be an action disallowed by the Agreement. The company sues Canada under the Agreement’s dispute arbitration provisions.

You lose. Canada and maybe even your municipality are on the hook for millions of dollars in compensation and the company gets to go ahead and put up its turbines anyway.

The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA for short) will be in effect before Christmas. Ask your MP about it. But don’t be conned; it’s a bad deal.

For more on the Canada-China FIPA go [here](http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/fipa-apie/china-text-chine.aspx?lang=en&view=d for the text of the Agreement.) and [here](http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2012/10/29/canada-china-agreement-fipa/ for a balanced debate of what the Agreement means.):

Selling Canada Short

CBC news has revealed the Harper government’s draft foreign policy. It sets out an aggressive agenda for hanging our foreign policy hat on one hook—economic opportunity.

But the outrage from the government about the leak is so muted, you have to wonder if it was less a leak than a plant … a chance for the government to gauge public reaction before formally adopting a course it’s already on.

We already know that our PM has been flying around the world signing economic agreements with anyone with a pulse. Nine so far, with countries like Columbia, Panama, Peru and Chile—to make it easier for our mining companies to operate, presumably. Neither those countries nor our mining companies have a sterling record on human rights and environmental protection.

And now China. Well, as the draft policy says, we must seek economic interests, “even where political interests or values may not align.”

Even so, John Baird’s office insists the government is pursuing “a principled foreign policy that is advancing Canadian interests and Canadian values.”

Eh?

Just how principled is it to sign a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement that gives tacit permission for Canadian companies to run roughshod over other people’s rights and environment?

Just how principled is it to sign a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement that gives a clear economic advantage to China and disadvantages our ability to protect our environment and our own energy sovereignty. What nation worthy of the name would do that for the sake of a fistful of dollars?

Beware the government whose only bottom line is the bottom line. And don’t be conned. This foreign policy is bad for Canada and bad for the world.

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