Law Professor Warns Harper About Canada-China Trade Deal
Read this letter by Osgoode Law Professor and international trade expert Gus Van Harten, republished in The Tyee, to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, sounding alarms over a controversial new Canada-China trade deal, the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA). (Oct. 16, 2012)
Dear Prime Minister Harper and Minister Fast,
I am an expert in investment treaties. As a Canadian, I am deeply concerned about the implications for Canada of the Canada-China investment treaty. As I understand, the treaty is slated for ratification by your government on or about Oct. 31. I hope you will reconsider this course of action for these reasons.
1. The legal consequences of the treaty will be irreversible by any Canadian court, legislature or other decision-maker for 31 years after the treaty is given effect. The treaty has a 15-year minimum term, requires one year’s notice prior to termination, and adds another 15-years of treaty coverage for assets that are Chinese-owned at the time of termination. By contrast, NAFTA for example can be terminated on six months notice.
2. Other investment treaties (aka FIPAs) signed by Canada have a similar duration and, in this respect, are exceptional among modern treaties. Yet none put Canada primarily in the capital-importing position. As such, the Canada-China treaty effectively concedes legislative and judicial elements of our sovereignty in a way that other FIPAs do not. Chinese asset-owners in Canada will be able, at their option, to challenge Canadian legislative, executive, or judicial decisions outside of the Canadian legal system and Canadian courts.
3. To elaborate, the treaty will likely be largely de facto non-reciprocal due to anticipated in-flows of Chinese investment to Canada outstripping Canadian investment in China. The deal gives Cadillac legal status to Canadian investors in China and vice versa. Yet Canada will be much more exposed to claims and corresponding constraints as a result of the de facto non-reciprocity. Two awards of a billion dollars-plus, and many over $100 million, have been issued against countries to date under these treaties, with more likely on the way. The awards are immune from judicial review, largely or entirely, and are often extra-territorial, depending on how the investor’s lawyers frame the claim.