Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ottawa targets state-owned takeovers

This is bizarre. What Canada is in effect doing is ensuring that it has no plan for Canadian energy security or it would have its own state owned energy firm and like the Chinese and Gulf states be investing in energy resources elsewhere both to make money and ensure supplies. Here is an excerpt from Gordon Laxer's aborted presentation. It shows Conservative strongarm tactics by the way.

The U.S. has a national energy policy that emphasizes self-sufficiency, energy independence and domestic ownership. Why don't we?

The Globe and Mail
May 28, 2007

At a meeting of the House of Commons' international trade committee earlier this month, Leon Benoit, the Conservative chairman, ordered me to stop my presentation as an invited witness. My remarks, he ruled, were not relevant. When his decision was successfully challenged by other members of the committee, Mr. Benoit adjourned the meeting and left the room.

I was astonished. I had spent several days preparing for my presentation, and two days in transit. Later, I learned that Mr. Benoit's behaviour may have been prompted by a secret guidebook for Conservative chairmen, designed to interrupt witnesses challenging government positions.

If so, it backfired. Suppression intrigues people. They want to know what caused the storm.

I was cut off after noting that the United States has a National Energy Policy (a NEP) that emphasizes self-sufficiency, energy independence and domestic ownership.

And while Canada, as part of our bilateral Security and Prosperity Partnership initiative, supports U.S. efforts to wean itself off Middle Eastern oil, I noted that we do not have a NEP of our own.

Indeed, Canada's official goal is greater continental co-operation, at the expense of our own security of supply.

For example, in researching how Canada's energy security would be affected by exporting more energy to the United States, I learned that Canada has no plans, or enough pipelines, to get oil to Eastern Canadians in the event of an international supply crisis.

Further, I was surprised that the government was not even studying Canadian energy security.

The National Energy Board wrote me on April 12: "Unfortunately, the NEB has not undertaken any studies on security of supply." Yet the board's mandate is to "promote safety and security ... in the Canadian public interest."

I asked if Canada, as a member of the International Energy Agency, will establish a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The IEA was created to counter OPEC's boycotting power; its 24 members are supposed to maintain 90 days of emergency oil reserves.

The NEB replied that Canada "was specifically exempted from establishing a reserve, on the grounds that Canada is a net exporting country whereas the other members are net importers."

But that doesn't make sense. Canada may be a net exporter, but it still imports 40 per cent of its oil - 850,000 barrels per day - to meet 90 per cent of Atlantic Canada's and Quebec's needs, and 40 per cent of Ontario's. (end quote)

Canada is not concerned with our nergy security. Through NAFTA it has become an agent of enrgy security for the US. Harper likes it that way even though not he but the Liberals have brought it about.
Ottawa is targeting state-owned takeovers as a means of protecting US interests even though countries such as China might be willing to give us better deals thanUS companies.

Ottawa targets state-owned takeovers
Industry Minister says Canada is open for business but promises to weigh deals against national security

October 10, 2007

OTTAWA, VANCOUVER -- The federal government is arming itself with new tools to keep at bay state-owned companies of foreign government that use national corporations to extend their geopolitical sway, Industry Minister Jim Prentice said yesterday.

In a major speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, the powerful economic minister staked out Ottawa's position on the growing debate over foreign takeovers, making it clear that Ottawa does not intend to create major new hurdles for foreign investors despite concerns about "hollowing out" in key sectors of the economy.

Instead, the government will target acquisitions by foreigners that might compromise Canada's national interest, including takeovers by state-owned firms that don't operate according to free-market principles but as agents of their governments.

Mr. Prentice said Ottawa will look at adding an explicit "national security test" to Investment Canada Act guidelines to guard against foreign companies gaining control of sensitive defence- and security-related Canadian firms.

Faced with growing interest in Canada by Chinese state-owned companies, the Conservative government has been promising for the past year to introduce a new investment screen that focuses on companies that don't operate according to market rules or have transparent governance.

But Mr. Prentice said the government does not intend to erect major new barriers to incoming foreign investment, even from countries that don't allow Canadian corporations to make acquisitions.

"We are not - and we will not become - protectionist," he said. "The Investment Canada Act should not, and will not, become a shield to protect Canadian industry from the full rigours of global competition."

Opposition MPs and some corporate executives argue Canada is losing control of key industries, and that national security - or at least well-being - is at stake as a result.

However, Mr. Prentice batted down those concerns, saying Canadian companies invest more abroad than foreign firms send to Canada. He said the number of globally competitive Canadian corporations has grown to 39 from just 14 in 1985.

Trade consultant Peter Clark said he is not expecting the government to erect new barriers to investment.

"Is this going to be 'son of FIRA?' " he said, referring to the Foreign Investment Review Agency that was killed by the Mulroney government in the 1980s.

"I don't see them going that way."

Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada, said developed countries around the world are facing a dramatic increase in direct foreign investment from non-traditional sources, including emerging economies like China and oil-rich Middle East countries.

He said there is growing debate about how receptive countries like Canada should be when many of those emerging economies do not allow foreign takeovers in their home jurisdictions.

"It's a tough area to get into," Mr. Wright said. "The issue itself is complicated and then you have to overlay that with political considerations, both domestic and international."

A proposed takeover by China Minmetals for Inco Ltd. initially raised alarm bells about state-owned companies two years ago, but since then, Canada and the world have witnessed a growing appetite for takeovers by Chinese, Russian, Brazilian and oil-rich Middle Eastern companies that have close government ties.

However, Mr. Prentice said the government would not consider the issue of "reciprocity" in reviewing proposed takeovers by state-owned companies from nations that have more restrictive investment rules.

"In these cases, I think the proper course is to pursue access through trade negotiations - not to try and use the Investment Canada Act to refuse access to our market," he said.

The minister said the Conservative government would consider this fall precisely what measures are needed to screen takeover attempts by state-owned companies, or those aiming at companies in strategic sectors.

But even with state-owned companies, he said most would be welcome to make acquisitions, so long as they play by market rules.

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