China vs Canada

Ben Thomas in the NBR takes a look at the double standards when you look at the China FTA (which I support and Govt does) and the Canadian proposal to purchase some shares off existing private owners in Auckland International Airport, with a maximum 25% voting strength (which I support, but the Govt will turn down):

There’s one footnote to FTA. The two internationalists, Clark and Goff, know that back in New Zealand, there are politicians who are less expansive in their views on free trade and other cultures.

They are ready to stir up xenophobia to take advantage of the electorate’s insecurities, and boost their polling chances.

Your correspondent refers, of course, to Michael Cullen. The finance minister this week will be waiting with baited breath for the decision of his junior ministers (David Parker and Clayton Cosgrove) on whether the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board can buy 39.5 per cent of Auckland International Airport shares.

Cullen was the driving force – or at least, the public face – of government opposition to the possibility of the Canadians acquiring a “strategic asset” like the airport.

He fronted the decision to amend the Overseas Investment Agency’s test to make the Canadians’ bid for 39.5 per cent of the airport (now only 24.9 per cent of votes) more difficult.

Why does Dr Cullen oppose the Canadian deal so vehemently?

Perhaps one concern is Canada’s poor record on human rights: the country only passed entrenched human rights legislation in the late 1970s.

Perhaps it is the Canadians continued oppression of their French-speaking minority, and refusal to grant the outlying province of Quebec greater autonomy.

Or perhaps, to paraphrase Enoch Powell and more latterly New Zealand First’s Peter Brown, Dr Cullen fears that opening the door to Canadian investment will lead to cultural disharmony and “rivers of maple syrup” in the street.

Very good points. The Govt gets full marks for the FTA, but their behaviour over a mere 25% voting strength in what is already a privately owned airport is petty political posturing.