The Chinese are coming, the Chinese are coming – by Margaret Wente (Globe and Mail – November 1, 2012)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

It’s a scary time in Canada these days, and not because of Halloween. A mysterious new investment treaty with China has people spooked. On top of that, the government is about to decide whether CNOOC, a Chinese state-owned oil company, can plant its big red boots in our oil patch. Watch out! We’re signing our sovereignty away. Before you can say boo, the rapacious foreigners will turn us into global coolies.

Does all of this seem eerily familiar? Why, yes. Good old-fashioned Canadian nationalism has come back to haunt us. Back in the 1980s, the people who fought the trade deal with the U.S. said the very same things about the Americans. It didn’t turn out that way, of course. Free trade made us prosperous and rich.

There’s a load of irony in all this. The people who used to be anti-American and pro-Chinese seem to have changed sides. But now that Barack Obama is in office (for the moment, at any rate), anti-Americanism isn’t quite as fashionable as it used to be. The Chinese are now the bad guys. And the more they act like capitalists, the more they’re demonized for being Communists. “We’re not dealing on an even playing field with Communist China,” the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair warns. “Why in heaven’s name would we give up our own resources that way to another country?” The one thing that never goes out of fashion in this country is moral superiority.

The disappointing truth about this investment deal is that it’s an incremental step ahead. It won’t allow the Chinese to rampage through the land. Canada already has 24 similar agreements with other countries. According to trade lawyer Lawrence Herman, there are 2,500 such agreements in force around the world, and many of them are signed by China.

The real risk to Canada isn’t that the Chinese are coming, it’s that they’ll say to hell with it and take their money somewhere else. And that would be disastrous. We need vast pools of capital to develop our oil and gas fields – hundreds of billions of dollars within the next decade. Where will that money come from? The U.S.? Europe? Fat chance. The people with the money are emerging markets with huge capital surpluses, such as Malaysia and China.

At the same time, we have to diversify our customer base because we’re being profoundly screwed by the Americans. So long as they’re our only customer for crude oil, they can set the price.

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