China-Canada FIPA: Rick Mercer Slams Harper Over Secret Trade Deal

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Rick Mercer doesn’t like the way the Harper government signed on to a trade deal with China, and he wants to know just how many supervillains were involved in the process.

In his weekly rant on CBC Tuesday night, Mercer cast the deal — signed during a trade mission to Russia, with no parliamentary involvement — as the sort of cloak-and-dagger politics you’d expect to see in a spy thriller or a nefarious dictatorship.

“Is this a scene from the latest Bond movie? Sadly no, it is the further adventures of Stephen Harper,” Mercer said. “Who is this guy? Since when do Canadian prime ministers sign secret agreements with the Chinese in Russia? Was Dr. Evil there? Was there a naked lady painted entirely in gold?”

The Harper government signed the China-Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement in September. Activist groups and opposition leaders have been arguing against the deal.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said he would do all he can to withdraw Canada from the deal if it proved not to be a benefit to the country, prompting Prime Minister Stephen Harper to refer to Mulcair as an “extremist.”

The Council of Canadians has called the deal a “corporate rights pact” because it would lead to lawsuits that would force Canada to weaken its environmental regulations. It called on Canada to follow Australia’s example and stop negotiating these sorts of clauses into trade agreements.

Gus Van Harten, an investment law expert at Osgoode Hall Law School, told the CBC Canadians will assume “more of the risks and more of the constraints” of the trade deal than their Chinese counterparts. He said Canadians gained neither investor protection nor market access through the deal.

"We come out on the losing side on both," said Van Harten. "We should insist on reciprocity. The treaty does not allow for market access except under the exisiting legal framework of each country."

The Harper government maintains the deal is necessary for Canada to develop trade relationships with the world's most populous country.

"With this agreement, our government is bringing to Canadian investors the protection and predictability to invest with confidence in China, the world's second largest economy," a spokesman for International Trade Minister Ed Fast said in a statement last month.

Mercer pointed out that, while the North American Free Trade Agreement requires six month’s notice to withdraw, the Chinese deal requires 15 years.

“This fetish for secrecy has to stop,” he said in his rant.

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