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Coherence Needed in Canada-China Relations

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Coherence Needed in Canada-China Relations 
By David Kilgour
 
Derek Burney’s essay (Globe, Apr.11th) can be boiled down to calling
for a wider and deeper commercial relationship with China, which
sounds reasonable until one looks more closely.
 
He is, for example, rightly concerned that the trade balance has
soared in China''s favour from $8.5 billion in 2001 to $28.8 billion by
2007, but does not explain how a bilateral investment treaty would
create more exports for Canadians.
 
Burney argues that a treaty must give Chinese investors the right to
invest in Canada’s natural resources, but they already have it. Recent
examples include Sinopec increasing to 50 per cent its share in the
Northern Lights oil sands project in Alberta and China National
Petroleum earlier buying some oil sands leases.
 
China Minmetals, a branch of its mines ministry, earlier explored
buying  Noranda Mining, but was rebuffed when Canadian critics pointed
out that that this would amount to a Chinese government takeover of a
strategic asset in the Canadian economy. Does Burney favour this kind
of investment too?
 
Peter Navarro, a professor at the University of California, argues
correctly that consumer markets across the world have been “conquered”
by China largely through cheating on trade practices. These include
export subsidies, widespread counterfeiting and piracy of products,
currency manipulation, and environmental, health and safety standards
so weakly enforced that they have made China a very dangerous place to
work.
 
Navarro says new trade legislation by all of China’s trade partners
should achieve fair trade by the following:
 
 
All must refrain from illegal export subsidies and currency
manipulation and abide by the rules of the World Trade
Organization(WTO);
For currency manipulation, he supports what the bi-partisan US-China
Commission has recommended to the American Congress: define it as an
illegal export subsidy and add it to other subsidies when calculating
anti-dumping and countervail penalties;
Every trade partner must respect intellectual property; adopt and
enforce health, safety and environmental regulations consistent with
international norms; provide decent wages and working conditions; and
ban the use of forced labour;
Adopt a ''zero-tolerance'' policy for anyone who sells or distributes
pirated or counterfeit goods;
Defective and contaminated food and drugs must be blocked more
effectively by measures which make it easier to hold importers liable
for selling foreign products that do harm to people or pets;
Despite growing criticism, China''s party-state continues to trade its
UN Security Council veto for energy, raw materials and access to
markets from Angola to Burma to Zimbabwe. Increased monitoring and
exposure of China''s party-state activities everywhere is important;
To reverse the ''race to the environmental bottom'' in China, to require
all to compete on a level playing field and to reduce acid rain and
smog affecting populations abroad, all bilateral and multilateral
trade agreements should henceforth include strong provisions for
protection of the natural environment.
 
Canadian/Chinese Values
 
Many Canadians allow our respect for the people of China to mute
criticism of their government.  When apologists for its party-state
insist that the situation for a growing part of the population is
getting better, many of us appear willing to overlook bad governance,
official violence, growing social inequalities, widespread corruption
and chronic nepotism.
 
The Chinese people want the same things as Canadians, including,
respect for all, education, to be safe and secure, good jobs, and a
sustainable natural environment. Living standards have improved on the
coast and in other urban areas, but there is a cost. Most Chinese
continue to be exploited by the party-state and firms, often owned by
or contracted for manufacturing to multinationals, which operate today
across their country like 19th century robber barons.
 
This explains partly why the prices of consumer products ''made in
China'' seem so low—the externalities are borne by workers, their
families and the natural environment.
 
Labour Camps
 
In doing our final report on party-state organ pillaging from Falun
Gong practitioners, David Matas and I visited about a dozen countries
to interview adherents sent to China''s forced labour camps since 1999,
who managed later to leave the camps and the country itself. They told
us of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily
with no pay, little food, being cramped together on the floor for
sleeping and being tortured. They made export products, ranging from
garments to chopsticks to Christmas decorations as subcontractors to
multinational companies. This, of course, constitutes both gross
corporate irresponsibility and violations of WTO rules.
 
The labour camps are outside the legal system and allow the
party-state to send anyone to them for up to four years with neither
hearing nor appeal.
 
There is a link between the involuntary labour done since 1999 by tens
of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners in these
camps and the resulting loss of manufacturing jobs in Canada and
elsewhere. One estimate of the number of the camps across China as of
2005 was 340, having a capacity of about 300,000 inmates. In 2007, a
US government report estimated that at least half of the inmates in
the camps were Falun Gong.
 
Such practices would not be occurring if the Chinese people enjoyed
the rule of law and their government believed in the intrinsic
importance of each one of them.  It is the combination of totalitarian
governance and ''anything is permitted'' economics that allows such
practices to persist. Canada and other countries should ban forced
labour exports.
 
Conclusion
 
The attempted crushing of  democracy movements, truthful journalists,
Buddhist, Falun Gong, Christian, Muslim and other independent faith
groups, human rights lawyers and other legitimate civil society
communities in recent years indicates that China''s party-state must
still be engaged with caution.
 
If its government stops abuses of human rights and takes steps to
indicate that it wishes to treat its trade partners in a
mutually-beneficial way, the new century will bring harmony for China,
its trading partners and neighbours. The Chinese people have the
numbers, perseverance, self-discipline, entrepreneurship,
intelligence, culture and pride to make this new century better and
more peaceful for the entire human family.

 

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