CANADA'S foreign policy appears to be shifting. This week it's Senegal and the Congo for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while Foreign Minister John Baird is in Nigeria.
In the name of free trade, "foreign investment promotion and protection" or FIPPA agreements are being negotiated at home and abroad.
The answer to whether or not such agreements will ultimately benefit Canada depends on whom one asks.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States in 1994, has both its boosters and detractors. We'll leave analysis of NAFTA's economic impact to others, but the agreement has spawned some public awareness of so-called Chapter 11 disputes.
NAFTA's Chapter 11 allows the governments of the three countries to be sued by corporations for actions harming their investments. In 2010, the Harper government elected to pay $130million to AbitibiBowater to settle just such a suit. Canada is currently being sued for hundreds of millions of dollars in scores of Chapter 11 suits.
Australia now refuses to include this type of clause in its trade agreements. But it's this type of clause that Trade Minister Ed Fast has quietly signed off on in the Canada-China FIPPA and that critics argue will allow a Chinese corporation to sue British Columbia should this province's government block the Northern Gateway pipeline.
Repositioning Canada in the world relative to a weakening U.S. economy is smart foreign policy, but Canadians should have the right to debate the domestic consequences.