In his editorial titled “Shame on Stephen” (Chief, Oct. 18), highly regarded for his balance and professionalism Editor David Burke, relied on an online article by Andrew Nikiforuk regarding the groundbreaking bilateral agreement to protect foreign investment in both Canada and China.
In addition to taking into account the source article, I also reviewed the agreement myself — discussed its provisions with the Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, who has tabled the agreement, and heard from officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The reality is that the agreement is an important measure taken by our government to protect Canadians’ commercial interests abroad, level the playing field for Canadians investing in China and is a critical step for attracting foreign investment. It is also consistent with other bilateral agreements negotiated by Canada with 24 other countries over the years. As an international lawyer who spent a decade in Asia, I am personally aware of the current situation — Canadian investors in China are dealing with the uncertainty of resolving a commercial dispute. With this agreement in place, for the first time, Canadian investors in the world’s second-biggest economy will have recourse to independent, trustworthy, and well-respected international arbitration systems. Our government has an ambitious pro-trade agenda, opening markets in the Asia-Pacific.
The agreement sets new standards for transparency. Article 28 of the agreement necessitates public access to relevant documents and awards, and sets terms for public hearings in the event of a dispute. The article also deftly requires confidentiality where indiscreet disclosure of sensitive information could compromise a party’s commercial interests. This is the first time that China has agreed to include such transparency language in a bilateral investment agreement. Both Canada and China retain the right to regulate in the public interest, and both parties have committed to do so in a non-discriminatory manner. Furthermore, the agreement, like the NAFTA, “carves-out” existing provincial measures from various disciplines such as national treatment and most-favoured-nation provisions.
The federal government is ultimately responsible for the obligations of international trade and investment treaties. This is consistently the case under all such bilateral investment protection agreements.
In regards to debate in the House of Commons, the previous Liberal government had no policy of tabling treaties in the House of Commons. In 2008, our Conservative government announced that we would table in the House of Commons any treaties between Canada and other states that are considered to be governed by public international law. Accordingly, we tabled Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement on Sept. 26, 2012. This reflects our government’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Opposition parties have had four Opposition Days on which they could have chosen to debate the agreement, but chose not to do so on each occasion
Due to space limitations, I leave substantive response on his environmental concerns to another time, other than to point out Section 18(3) of the Act, which states that “The Contracting Parties recognize that it is inappropriate to encourage investment by waiving, relaxing, or otherwise derogating from domestic health, safety or environmental measures.”
John Weston, MP
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country