Taking the Fear Out of FIPA

by David Maurice

Anyone who’s followed the political scene has heard the doom and gloom surrounding China’s Foreign Investor Protection Agreement (FIPA) and what it will do to our country. Many fear that we’re selling our government to foreign benefactors and giving them full control of our laws.

Such fears can be dismissed. The Canada-China FIPA requires Chinese corporations to abide by the same regulations as domestically owned corporations. It has little to do with the government, as we retain full power over our people, our land and our laws.

FIPA is simply Canada’s promise to China that we’ll be treating their businesses the same way we treat our own. Unless Chinese corporations have evidence that we’re treating their goods or people as foreign-owned, China has little to no say in how we run our country.

The words “little to no” are of critical importance in the matter, as they are causing the majority of the fear over FIPA. By agreeing to the FIPA, we’ve opened ourselves to foreign-owned corporations being able to open lawsuits against our government for various circumstances and people are afraid these corporations have gained more influence than they had prior to this agreement.

Some could argue that we’re opening doors that would be better left closed, but the potential  to be sued by international interests doesn’t mean that anything will change. Canadian-owned corporations can already open legal proceedings against our government.  Opening a lawsuit means little in the large scheme of things.  What truly matters is winning that lawsuit.

That’s excluding the fact that we’ve been using FIPAs with foreign countries since as early as 1990, the year in which the Canada-Poland FIPA first went into effect. I’d like to point out that as of 2014, there has been no discussion on the disastrous side-effects on our country, nor has our government  received any lawsuits from  the countries we’ve signed FIPA agreements with.

This isn’t to say that FIPAs don’t have problems that shouldn’t be addressed, but such problems can only be fixed when those who’d do better advocating for change aren’t vilifying these agreements and trying to tear them apart.  Many of these deals are done behind the scenes with little to no consultation with the people— we’re simply given the documentation after the ink is dry.

Without much enforcement of FIPAs and with this much cloak-and-dagger behind the scenes, opportunities for shenanigans could theoretically occur and we would have little to no influence on the subject. However, hypothetical situations can be construed to fit any agenda or fear, and as such are the refuge of cowardly politicians.

As we’re moving to an age of globalization, with the disappearance of borders and growth of multiculturalism, FIPAs are going to play a large part in this new world. We shouldn’t be fighting against FIPAs and condemning them with our fears and what-ifs. We should be advocating transparency between government and people and stronger enforcement all around—ironing out the wrinkles before anyone can discover and abuse them.