Last week I escaped or tried to escape Canadian political news by flying off to sunny Las Vegas. When I was checking in I was asked which newspaper I wanted at my door each morning: The New York Times, LA Times or Wall Street Journal. I took the Wall Street Journal and that is why I was unable to escape Canadian political news.
Several times Canada ended up on the front page of the journal and for political as well as business reasons. Research in Motion landed in the prime spot but mostly all the chatter was about the attempted takeover of Nexen, an oil and gas company based in Calgary, by CNOOC, a Chinese firm.
Nexen has oil assets in Alberta, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, so despite what Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says, this deal will not be decided just in Ottawa. The Americans or the Brits could decide to block the transfer of their natural resource assets to CNOOC and I think they should, with good reason. Just as I think Canada should and with good reason.
CNOOC stands for China National Offshore Oil Corporation. China National – if that doesn’t tell you who owns this, let me spell it out for you and by you I’m mainly talking to Jim Prentice and other cheerleaders of this deal. China National Offshore Oil Company is wholly owned by the government of the People’s Republic of China.
This is a state owned enterprise as they are now called.
Let me ask you a question…could Enbridge, TransCanada or one of the other big players make a bid for CNOOC or any other Chinese firm?
The answer is no.
China does not allow foreign takeovers. China does not allow foreigners to own its natural resources. They go around the world and buy up resources in other countries as a way of ensuring that they have preferred access to the resources they need but they do not allow outsiders to buy up what they have in their ground.
Yes, Canadian companies are able to set up businesses in China but not in the same way that they could set up a business in the US, Britain, Germany, Australia, Brazil or India.
No, in China the government puts plenty of restrictions on foreign companies operating within their country. They often insist on partnerships with a state-owned company, companies which have the backing of the Chinese state, access to easy capital, low interest rates and the desire to conduct industrial espionage on behalf of their owners who then steal patented technology and reproduce it cheaply.
There is no real foreign ownership in China.
It is this basic fact that should be enough for the Harper government to say no to this deal.
I believe in free and open trade.
We don’t have that with China. If we did and Canadian companies could do to China what China is doing to the oil patch then this would be no problem.
Unfortunately we have people like former Industry Minister Jim Prentice, people that should know better, claiming this is a good deal for Canada.
Prentice goes so far as to say that the battle between capitalism and socialism is over and in the future it will be a battle between capitalism and state owned enterprises – Jim, when a state owns the means of production, that is socialism.
And not just benign socialism, if such a thing exists. Here’s what the Obama administration was saying about China’s human rights record just a few months ago.
“Deterioration in key aspects of the country’s human rights situation continued. Repression and coercion, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues, were routine.”
The Chinese government executes political dissidents, suppresses freedom of expression and freedom of religion. They engage in torture, slave labour, arbitrary detention, forced abortions on people with more than one child. Recently a story emerged of a woman who already had two children – she was eight months pregnant. The authorities captured her, separated her from her family and forced an abortion on her.
The government that does this is the government that owns CNOOC, the company that wants to buy up a Canadian oil company.
Is this the country that you want to do business with? I know my answer. No.
And that’s the Byline.