Ethical economics

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in China last week for a large trade mission. How wonderful. Wait! He was where again? China? Oh boy …

China is one of the final bastions of communism, at least in theory. Our PM was there to promote Canadian businesses and export our natural resources to that country as well. This includes Alberta’s controversial tar sands oil deposits. Since the Keystone XL pipeline was thankfully axed by the Obama administration   – at least until revised plans are presented – Harper has been talking hardball. If the Americans won’t take our dirty oil, our PM is going to make damn sure that somebody will. Who better than China?

How is trade with China really beneficial to our country? Western countries go there for cheap labour, which kills high-paying domestic industrial jobs, so that  consumers can “Save Money, Live Better.” Sound familiar? Too bad living better  is only an illusion.

First, goods produced in China are produced in factories where working conditions are far below poor and aware readers will know just how much China “cares” about human rights.

Second, Chinese products are often made sub-standard. If you read or listen to the news, Chinese products are in the headlines over and over again for health and safety concerns. If a product is not laced with toxic lead paint, contains hazardous magnetic parts, or your pet food is not currently killing your pet with Melamine, then something is likely to blow up in your face while using it.

Third, Chinese companies are heavily influenced by Beijing since they are all state-controlled. These companies care very little for intellectual property and many western companies have extreme difficulties enforcing patent rights. Chinese companies copy technologies that have been laboriously engineered through costly research and development over several years and make a huge profit off of a similar product that they had no part in researching

Fourth, China often tells other countries that its internal affairs are nobody’s business,. Which is fine. Yet they enjoy meddling around in other nations’ business. Being a large military power in the Asia-Pacific region, the Chinese are willing to intimidate neighbours over resources. Fuelling such a volatile military complex with our natural resources is crazy.

I could go on and the list would only grow. Harper, though, only sees the quick buck that he will make, or will try to make. This is much like many other leaders and organizations. However, it is a dangerous game, one in which Canada can only get burned. Trade diversification is great as over-reliance on the American market is poor business practice. But thinking that China is a better business partner is wrong. Beijing will lure you in and then spring the trap. It is a game of cat and mouse. If Canada thinks it is the cat, it is in desperate need of new leadership.

Let’s keep resources, production, and jobs in Canada. We should be willing to pay a little more for goods produced right here at home, or at least in a place that respects human rights, intellectual property, the environment, and its neighbours more than China does.
If you happen to believe in the “Save Money, Live Better” mantra, consider that other choices exist; you just have to look for them.

Sebastian Prost
Contributor

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