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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Coherence Needed in Canada-China Relations

April 17, 2009

By David Kilgour
MWC News
April 15, 2009

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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