The Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, is in Canada this week on an official visit. This afternoon, after meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the two men took some questions from reporters. The press were allotted a total of four questions, two from each country’s press corps. The Canadian press corps gets further subdivided into one English-language question and one French-language question. Hélène Buzzetti of Le Devoir asked the French-language question, a question that was really only for Harper as it was about the Port of Montreal. The English-language reporters — CP, Bloomberg, Toronto Star, Reuters, Postmedia and Sun — came to a consensus that we wanted to ask Harper about the Nexen deal and I drew the straw to put the question to the PM. But, given that Tanzania also relies heavily on foreign investment to develop its resource sector, I thought it would be interesting to hear President Kikwete’s views on how Tanzania handles investment proposals from companies that originate in countries, like China, that do not share Tanzania’s democratic values.
Not sure Kikwete knew exactly what he was getting into, but here’s what had to say about that:
Well, I’ve been asked to comment on how do we welcome investments from a country which does not have credible democratic relations. Well, we have an Investment Code which every investor has to subscribe to. If he or she meets the conditionalities provided for in that Investment Code, he or she is eligible. Unfortunately, democracy is not one of those issues in our Investment Code so if that is your question.
Let me also, it surprises me because it is the major democratic economies of the West that are major investors in China. I think I’ve said it all. Because I’ve been to China. I visited a number of factories there. I visited Toyota. I visited one Toyota plant manufactures 600,000 cars and they were telling me that they have three of those plants in China. At Tianjin, I saw Canadian flags, American flags, European flags. So what is this question all about?
As for Harper’s response to the latest Nexen stuff, be sure to check the story my colleague Daniel Proussalidis filed on the subject.