Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again tonight to address the foreign investment protection and promotion agreement, or FIPA, that the government recently concluded with China but has not yet put into place.
I will start by reiterating the New Democrats' commitment to working with Canadian businesses, labour and our international trade partners to expand trade and investment opportunities around the world. The Canadian economy and Canadian jobs rely on trade and our businesses benefit from foreign investment.
Of course, China is a big part of the trading dynamic. It is the second largest economy in the world. It is an ascending economy and there is a profound connection between our two countries. In my riding of Vancouver Kingsway, nearly half my constituents are either immigrants from China or have Chinese heritage. This connection is what brings both cultural and economic vibrancy to my community and to our country.
FIPA took 18 years to negotiate between Canada and China. It has provisions that once in force will keep it in force for at least 31 years. Yet the government and the MPs on the government side of the House did not schedule any form of debate or study about the FIPA. The minister would not come before our committee to answer any questions about the FIPA. In fact, the government members would not allow any study of the FIPA at committee. A motion I put forward to study it at committee was turned down and they did not schedule the FIPA to be brought to a vote in the House.
If anything deserves careful study and scrutiny, it is this investment protection agreement. The general concept is sound. The protection of investors is especially needed in China. It is not disrespectful to China to point out the difficulties and challenges that Canadian investors, and in fact any kind of foreign investors, face in China. There is inconsistent application of the rule of law and difficulty in enforcing contracts. Those are well known issues.
The concept of a FIPA is sound between the two countries, but FIPAs, like the one we are discussing now, can prevent governments from enacting policies in the public interest. What we are talking about are provisions of this particular FIPA that are of concern to Canadians. This agreement that the Conservatives signed would allow foreign state-owned companies to buy up more and more interests in our natural resources and if the government tried to impose restrictions on them we, the Canadian taxpayers, could be sued.
For the first time in Canadian history, the Conservative government allowed for a dispute resolution process, a process that is already prone to corporate bias and antithetical to principles of the rule of law. It has allowed this process to happen behind closed doors. The government has signed a section that says that if one of the countries that is being sued wants to, it can have the hearing, the legal suit challenging breach of agreement, heard behind closed doors and all documents would be hidden from the public.
Canada is a democratic country where we follow the norms of the rule of law. The rule of law is we have open courts. We have an open justice system. We do not allow court tribunal systems to be heard in private, maybe in a private commercial setting, but not when taxpayer dollars are on the hook. The government signed a provision like that, for the first time in history.
Second, this FIPA contains a provision that allows China and Canada to keep all non-conforming measures, which are measures that are currently restraints on trade. The problem is that China has been a closed economy for a long time and has many non-conforming measures, whereas Canada is a liberal market model.
My question for the government is this. Why would it signed an imbalanced agreement that treats Canadian investors unfairly, gives them less rights than Chinese investors in Canada and has a dispute resolution mechanism that allows disputes to be heard behind closed doors in secret? Why is that?