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A Flip of the Finger for this FIPA

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
“If China doesn’t like something we do to protect our environment or our health, it will sue us … not in open court, but in secret arbitration.”

I am a veteran of the free trade battles of the 1980s and I’ve got the political scars to prove it. NAFTA’s been in effect for some 18 years now, but I still don’t know whether it’s a good deal.

I do know that of the 16 trade disputes we launched under NAFTA, we’ve lost every one. US companies, however, have won most of theirs and they’ve taken home $170 million of our money in compensation.

So when I look at the deal our PM signed with China in September, I worry. And you should too.

If China doesn’t like something we do to protect our environment or our health, it will sue us … not in open court, but in secret arbitration.

An example is needed.

Let’s say a Chinese company wants to set up a huge windfarm in Grey and Bruce Counties and they meet all our governments’ existing criteria.

You and your municipality don’t like where the windmills are going, or their numbers, or how the company does business. (China, by the way, is a major manufacturer of wind turbines now, and under this agreement, it has no obligation to use turbines we build, or to hire locally.)

So your municipality passes a bylaw that blocks construction. The Chinese consider that to be an action disallowed by the Agreement. The company sues Canada under the Agreement’s dispute arbitration provisions.

You lose. Canada and maybe even your municipality are on the hook for millions of dollars in compensation and the company gets to go ahead and put up its turbines anyway.

It’s called the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA for short) and it will be in effect before Christmas. Ask your MP about it. But don’t be conned; it’s a bad deal.

ABOUT David McLaren
David McLaren is an award-winning writer living at Neyaashiinigmiing on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. He has worked for government, in the private sector, with civil society and First Nations. He can be reached at
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