Once upon a time, my family owned a medium sized, publicly traded business in Germany. It made highly processed rubber hoses for every car and truck brand in the world except Toyota,the kind you see when you open the hood. Needless to say, we no longer own it, but it’s still making hoses and a lot of money for its new owners, a big multinational that makes tires, among other things. In 2011, I visited the company in my home town. It just so happens that this company actually developed the proprietary technology that enables it to manufacture these very specialized hoses, and continues to do all R&D in my home town. The company is one of thousands like it in Germany that provides jobs, well paying manufacturing jobs, for some 1000 employees. It’s a major employer and generator of wealth in this town of roughly 30,000 people. The current manager agreed to give me a private, guided tour of the plant because I am a direct descendant of the founder and as such, beyond suspicion. When I asked if I could bring my cousin and her husband, he refused. His reason took me by surprise: the biggest problem the company was facing was Chinese theft of its proprietary technology, which took half a century to perfect and is still being developed. In other words, the company wasn’t planning to move its plant, its technology or its jobs to China any time soon. On the contrary, they saw China not only as a competitor but a thief: a dangerous thief who could bring down their entire enterprise.
What has all this got to do with anything? Well, it’s simple. A little more than a week ago, the government of Stephen Harper signed a so called ‘free trade agreement’ with China that in essence hands over the controls of how we do business here in Canada to the Chinese. They can now sue anybody in Canada whom they consider to be standing in their way of freely exploiting our resources, our economy and most importantly, our environment. They can sue any small company like the one in my home town if they believe it is getting any sort of government help or is benefiting from anything that the local governments deems a good thing, such as protecting a waterway and prohibiting the Chinese from using it, polluting it or otherwise causing it harm. When the deed was done, there was a lot of lamenting and belated handwringing across the land. But the agreement is going to be legal for some 30 years, and if we don’t like it, tough shit.
So here is what I don’t understand. The Harper government prides itself on being ‘business friendly’ and can be heard proclaiming that under their glorious leadership, Canadian business is getting stronger and more competitive every day. The call themselves ‘Conservatives’. If that were true, wouldn’t they be protecting us from the highly predatory and, let’s face it, repressive and brutal, not to mention polluting regime in China, instead of opening their arms and letting them do here what they have already done to their own, oppressed people and utterly polluted countryside? Is this what globalization actually means, a race to the polluted bottom where nobody has a good job and the environment is irredeemably damaged? I think the answer is obvious, and if we believe that Chinese corporations are here to benefit us, we’re not just naive. We’re stupid, and will all be working at McJobs courtesy of Harper and Chinese enterprise.