Industry Ministry under fire for vague testimony to parliament about security review of Chinese acquisition of Canadian lithium firm – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – February 3, 2022)

The Federal Industry Ministry is under fire from security experts for being vague about the length of its security screening of Chinese-state-owned Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd.’s acquisition of Canadian lithium development company Neo Lithium Corp.

As a domestic company being acquired by a foreign buyer, Neo Lithium was subject to a review by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), to determine whether the transaction threatened Canadian national security. A review can start as soon as the government becomes aware of a deal.

But when François-Philippe Champagne, the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, was questioned repeatedly during a parliamentary hearing last week about when he had become aware of the Neo Lithium acquisition, he refused to say.

Adding to the opacity, Deputy Industry Minister Simon Kennedy said in the same hearing that an extended review took place, beyond the minimum 45 day requirement. But he too refused to be tied down on specifics. When pressed, he said the government reviewed the deal for “some time,” over a period of months. Mr. Kennedy declined an interview.

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