Canadians don’t trust Asian state-owned enterprises (SOEs) with their companies, according to a new survey by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.
National Opinion Poll: Canadian Views on Asia found that respondents opposed the acquisition of Canadian companies by Chinese and Indian SOEs, but were more open to British and Australian buyers. The survey asked “If a company, bank or investment fund controlled by a foreign government were trying to buy a controlling stake in a major Canadian company, how would you feel if the foreign government were…?”
National security concerns explained some of the discrepancy in attitudes. From the report:
Canadian views on economic engagement are strongly associated with their views on security issues. Canadians who view foreign control of the economy as a threat to national security are less willing to support trade agreements with Asian countries. Canadians who express favour for traditional allies tend to accept investment from state-owned firms controlled by Western countries but not from those controlled by Asian countries. For many Canadians, economic engagement and security issues go hand in hand.
Worries about foreign influence also pushed down support for economic engagement with Asian countries, particularly for emerging economies. Chinese company CNOOC’s $15 billion takeover Alberta oilsands firm Nexen Energy created controversy last year with this publication among others criticizing the federal government for a lack of clear policy on SOE takeovers. Critics questioned the wisdom of allowing a non-democratic state to acquire a significant stake in Canada’s natural resource development.
The survey’s respondents seemed to agree, showing more enthusiasm for strengthening economic ties with democratic countries, though that only applied to traditional allies like Australia or Britain, and not Asian democracies like South Korea or India. Russia fared particularly poorly, with the survey being undertaken at the height of the Crimea crisis.
When it comes to their companies, it seems Canadians would prefer the government pulling the strings be based in London, not Beijing.