By Terry GlavinThe first thing you need to know about the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which has been called Canadas most important treaty since the North American Free Trade Agreement, is that the treaty wasnt concluded with the legitimate government of China, because there is no such thing. It is nonetheless quite right to call the deal a protection agreement. Thats because the Chinese Communist Party has mutated into a classic protection racket that brutalizes and corrupts everything it touches.Because we are becoming accustomed to hearing the word reciprocity in commentary and reportage about the agreement Ottawa has struck with these gangsters, its necessary to know that, paradoxically, the agreement provides no reciprocity in market access. Beijings tariffs remain untouched and Beijing retains the prerogative to strong-arm Canadian investors as usual. But there is an actual degree of reciprocity involved, of a kind.It works like this. Beijing promises that the Chinese Communist Party will regularize its bribe system and put the boots to Chinas subnational, provincial, county and municipal governments on behalf of Canadian companies, in the same way that the CCPs enforcers put the boots to everyone on behalf of Beijings state-owned enterprises. So long as Canadian investors do as theyre told, everybody gets along.To reciprocate, Ottawa promises that Chinas state-owned companies will be similarly exempt from any impertinence from the Canadian courts, from the provinces and from municipalities. Any backchat say, a law sensibly requiring that Alberta bitumen be upgraded and refined in Canada rather than pumped through Beijing-financed pipelines to awaiting tankers on the west coast and the upstarts can be punished with penalties assigned by special, closed arbitration tribunals in decisions beyond the reach of judicial review.Canada is willing up give up elements of its democratic traditions on the promise of investment coming in, is the way Gus Van Harten, an authority in international law at Osgoode Hall Law School describes the deal. But once youre past that small matter its true that the agreement is pretty well boilerplate lifted from similar deals Ottawa has struck with a couple of dozen countries, among them Latvia, Barbados, Costa Rica, Armenia, Romania, Ghana, and of course that economic powerhouse known as Trinidad and Tobago.You will be right if youve guessed that just one reason there is a difference is that none of these other countries has a so-called government that can boast the captive labour of a sixth of humanity or the convenience of a sovereign wealth fund that just opened up shop in Toronto with $323 billion in currency reserves at its disposal.Prime Minister Stephen Harper and outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao signed the Canada-China deal in Vladivostok on Sept. 9. Its contents were kept secret until the agreement was tabled in the House of Commons, which doesnt get to vote on it, on Sept. 26. Even so, reports of the agreements contents have already triggered a cascade of protests and petitions across the country. The PMO can call the thing a ratified treaty 21 sitting days after its tabling, which is to say pretty well any day now. The agreement is supposed to last 31 years.If Harper seems to be in a terrible hurry to get such a sketchy arrangement rammed into force and effect, its because the energy superpower legacy he laid out in 2006 as the thing he wanted most to bestow upon Canada is already a complete shambles, and its about to get worse. Beijing has him over a barrel.To strike his target of tripling Albertan oilsands production, the prime minister had to turn to the cash-rich Chinese Communist Partys overseas acquisitions arms. Beijings state firms have already spent at least $25 billion in their buying binge. But by two weeks ago, eight out of 10 Canadians surveyed told pollsters from Angus Reid that theyre against the whole damn thing. As if to teach us all something of the vicissitudes of political irony, those ordinary hardworking Albertans whose virtues the Conservatives persist in hectoring the rest of us about have turned out to be among the fiercest opponents of Beijings biggest-ever overseas gambit, China National Offshore Oil Corporations $15.1 billion, way-over-premium bid for Nexen Inc., and its still in the hopper.To get a sense of what the prime ministers witless critics on Parliament Hill understand about what were dealing with here, it is helpful to know the responses Epoch Times reporter Matthew Little elicited last month after spending a day or so wandering around up there, asking a single, simple question: Is China under authoritarian control? Only Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Liberal Party fixture Bob Rae were capable of answering like grownups: Yes. Biggest foot in mouth: NDP environment critic Megan Leslie. She said shed need to consult her political science textbooks and then get briefed before shed be prepared to give an answer.This is what Chinas state capitalism looks like.The party hack tipped to be anointed Chinas new president when the unelected and self-replicating Communist Party leadership meets on Nov. 8 is a shadowy geezer by the name of Xi Jinping. His family has amassed about $400 million in a wealth trajectory that by the oddest coincidence mirrors Comrade Xis rise through party ranks. But thats nothing. By the meticulous reckoning of a Pulitzer-worthy New York Times investigation published last week, the family of outgoing Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has accrued to itself a net worth of nearly $3 billion.While Chinas per-capita income hovers around that of sand-rich Turkmenistan, last year the net worth of the wealthiest 70 members of Chinas laughably named National Peoples Congress, by Bloomberg News calculations, was $89.8 billion. Chinas nouveau riche know very well that the jig is up. Two surveys carried out in 2011 by Chinas Merchant Bank and by Shanghais Hurun Institute found that roughly 60 per cent of Chinas millionaires are already preparing for emigration or are planning to leave the minute a chance arises.The Communist Partys princelings have been plundering the country so ravenously that Chinas financial institutions are starting to feel the shocks of capital flight. The China Economic Weekly reports that over the past 12 years, more than 18,000 executives and officers of Chinese state-owned enterprises have been caught trying to flee with plundered funds. According to a study published just last week by the Washington, D.C.-based organization Global Financial Integrity, Chinas elites squirrelled $472 billion out of the country last year alone.This isnt socialism with Chinese characteristics. This is the Sopranos with Chinese characteristics.The final thing you need to know about the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement is its specific function. Its to elevate Canadas China-trade business executives from their hitherto mostly supine position as accomplices of Beijings gangland regime to a more formalized and official status as willing accessories to the beggaring of the Chinese people and the plundering of their wealth.Protection is precisely what FIPPAs Canadian beneficiaries will be very much wanting one day when all their trade agreements, their exquisitely-phrased contracts and their joint-venture undertakings are ablaze in bonfires from Guangdong to Xinjiang. Protection is what they will want, and they will deserve no such thing. Terry Glavin is an author and journalist whose most recent book is Come From the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan. He wrote this for the Ottawa Citizen.
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