Despite near-suicidal wailing over China trade pact, it’s no big deal – by Andrew Coyne (National Post – November 3, 2012)

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Notwithstanding our placid reputation, Canadians sure can be a morbidly obsessed bunch. Not a year or two passes without the death of Canada being pronounced on some account or other. Free trade, needless to say, was the death of us, as was the GST. To eliminate the deficit, a campaigning Jean Chrétien once warned, would surely lead to civil war or revolution, as indeed his government was to prove. Separatists in Quebec have killed us several times over.

So I suppose one shouldn’t be surprised at the near-suicidal wailing that has lately erupted over, of all things, a bilateral investment treaty — a treaty that has ample precedent in international law; that enjoins us to do no more than we are doing already; and all with respect to a relatively minor investor in this country.

I speak, of course, of the recently signed Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China. Or, as it has been described, the “secretive, potentially treacherous deal” that “could cripple Canada,” rife with “grave and sweeping implications for Canada’s sovereignty, security and democracy.” That deal, the day of whose ratification would be the day “we lose Canada to China.”

To be fair, those are all from a single source, the Green Party of Canada and its leader, Elizabeth May. Indeed, for all the excitement the deal has occasioned among anti-globalization activists and online petitioners, it has encountered noticeably little opposition among the, you know, opposition. To be sure, the NDP has lately — very lately — taken to advertising its distaste, but in quite perfunctory terms, seemingly aimed more at covering its Green flank than anything else.

The party leader, Tom Mulcair, was widely reported to have said an NDP government would revoke the agreement: In fact what he said was “we will revoke this agreement if it is not in the best interests of Canadians” [emphasis added]. As for the Liberals, they have restricted their concerns to the lack of “debate” and “transparency” surrounding the deal — which is only appropriate, since it was a Liberal government who launched the whole thing, way back in 1994.

That was 18 years ago. From that time to this, this supposedly Canada-ending agreement has aroused no opposition from the provinces, nor from business groups, nor from labour. Granted, the precise wording was only made public a month or so ago, but the general terms have long been known. How can it be that so few people should have discovered its treacherous potential — apart from May, there’s Maude Barlow, and an associate professor at Osgoode Hall, Gus Van Harten — while trade specialists such as Michael Hart, director of the Centre for Trade Policy and Law at Carleton University, or Daniel Schwanen of the C.D. Howe Institute, give it a pass?

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