The real reason why Canada is cozying up to Burma’s dictators [resources] – by Thomas Walkom (Toronto Star- April 7, 2012)posted in Asia Mining, Canadian/International Media Resource Articles |
The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.
Now we know why Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was so anxious to trek to Burma last month. Baird showed up in the southeast Asian country ostensibly to argue for human rights and, in particular, to laud the military dictatorship for letting dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters contest seats in Burma’s army-dominated legislature.
But recent rumblings from world capitals confirm that the real reason was the usual one: resources. Resource-rich Burma is subject to strict economic sanctions by Western countries. Big companies — and particularly big oil companies — are lobbying hard to have those sanctions lifted.
And Canada hopes to have its firms front and centre when the great barbecue begins. The fact that Burma’s military-backed leaders allowed any opening toward democracy — and that Suu Kyi gave them her imprimatur — offers Western countries the excuse they need to let trade and investment rip.
The United States has already lifted some sanctions against Burma. The Financial Times reports that more will be relaxed soon.
Reuters news agency reports that European oil giants like Shell, BP and Total are pressing their governments to beat the Americans to the punch. They may well do so later this month when European Union officials review their sanctions.
The Australians are said to be slathering. So too the Japanese.
That Western sanctions have lasted this long is a tribute to the lobbying efforts of pro-democracy groups such as Friends of Burma. Usually governments don’t care if their companies do business with dictatorships — witness Ottawa’s ongoing efforts to curry favour with China.
But Burma is a special case. Its military government, which in one form or another has run the country since generals seized power in 1962, has been particularly ham-handed in its dealings with dissidents and ethnic minorities.
More to the point, its haphazard and crony-based approach to economic development over the years scared off all but the most determined foreign investors.
Burma’s leaders were rumoured to take their cue from astrologers. At one point in the 1980s, they rearranged their entire currency system on a whim.
Canadian firms such as Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. were among those determined investors. But when the dictatorship turned particularly ugly in 2007, even they were forced to draw in their horns.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1157856–walkom-the-real-reason-why-canada-is-cozying-up-to-burma-s-dictators