Action Alert: Tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MPs that Full Public Debate is Needed Before Signing Deal that Puts Health Care at Risk
Submitted by kscott on Mon, 2012-11-12 14:13
BackgroundThe Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) is one of a number of investment treaties Canada has signed with a variety of countries. The far-reaching agreement was signed September 8, 2012 though the contents were not revealed until the agreement was tabled in the House of Commons on September 26. The Government admits it intends to ratify the deal without introducing any enabling legislation. RNAO is joining groups and individuals across the country in asking for transparent public discussion and debate of the contents of the Canada-China deal so that all Canadians understand its potential for undermining public policy. Trade and investment agreements are powerful tools that can transform society. We need deals that enhance public services such as health care, not degrade them. The problem is these agreements confer massive power on businesses to negate the public policy, which is part of our democratic process. They do this by giving foreign investors the power to sue for supposedly foregone profits by claiming that democratically-supported public policy adversely affects corporate bottom lines. The damages sought can deter government action to protect the public. RNAO has always asked for transparent trade and investment negotiations with full public consultations and strong protections for domestic environmental, social, health and labour policy. RNAO also urges using those agreements to maintain high standards for those very same areas. There has been considerable legitimate public concern about the China deal for a number of reasons:
- Our publicly-funded, not-for-profit health-care system is at risk. Protections in the agreement for environment and health are weak and qualified. There are no protections in the agreement for social programs or labour standards.
- China is a very large player and could soon become a major investor in environmentally damaging activities like the Tar Sands.
- First Nations are concerned because these FIPAs do not protect their treaty rights, and the risks are very real in the case of investment in oil exploration, tar sands that contaminate rivers and land, and pipelines. More generally, the constitutionality of ratifying without legislation deals like the Canada-China FIPA has been challenged.
- Claims against Canadian governments will be heard not by Canadian courts, but by international tribunal arbitrators who are not judges and who meet behind closed doors. The only parties with standing at the tribunals will be the investors and the federal government that is being sued.
- Investors are not averse to aggressive use of investor protection mechanisms. One Chinese state-owned enterprise has already used the investment dispute settlement mechanism to sue Belgium for $3 billion it says it lost during the 2008 financial crisis due to an emergency bank nationalization. As law professor and international investment treaty expert Gus Van Harten says, “there is a real possibility that, over the lifespan of the treaty, Canada will face billion dollar-plus awards due to provincial decisions that are not reviewable in Canadian courts.”
- All future governments will be tied to the agreement for a minimum of 15 years, with investments made prior to termination covered for an additional 15 years. Including termination notice, this is a 31-year commitment.
- Canadian investors will have more incentive to exploit the already abysmally low environmental and labour standards in China.