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.
Tim Armstrong is a lawyer whose assignments in the Ontario government included deputy minister of industry and trade and agent general for the Asia-Pacific region, headquartered in Tokyo, 1986-1990, with regional responsibilities for Japan, Korea and China.
If there was ever doubt, it now is clear that the takeover by the Chinese National Overseas Oil Corp. (CNOOC) of Nexen will be determined by the federal government with no public or parliamentary input. Ottawa remains unresponsive, in spite of the countless relevant questions that have been publicly raised.
The Investment Canada Act preserves confidentiality for any aspect of an acquisition application that contains privileged financial, commercial, scientific or technical information. But there are a host of unanswered factual issues that have nothing to do with any of these privileged categories.
It’s difficult to ignore the paradox that our federal governments have moved for some years to privatize virtually all market-oriented enterprises previously under federal ownership, and that we are now open to permitting foreign state-owned enterprises to acquire full control of companies like Nexen.
As well, we do not apparently share the concerns that prompted American opposition to CNOOC’s attempted acquisition of energy giant Unocal Corp. in 2005 because of the perceived security threat from China’s burgeoning industrial and military juggernaut. This assumes that our decision will not be affected by concerns, if any, from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment about Nexen’s leased properties in America.
Aside from these perplexing issues, what precisely do we know about CNOOC? Does its record in the energy sector, domestic and global, commend it as a major player in our oilsands?
In the absence of federal disclosure, we are left to search for ourselves. And available Internet material, from Wikipedia and elsewhere, is far from reassuring. Examples:
• In 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department reported that CNOOC had entered into a joint venture in Myanmar with a company “run by a family notorious for heroin trafficking.”
• In 2007-08, CNOOC allegedly clashed with its Myanmar workers over low wages, long working hours and other mistreatment of “inhabitants,” concerning “environmental contamination, land confiscation” and other unspecified “human rights abuses.”
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1295529–nexen-bidder-cnooc-has-a-troubling-record