A Calgary Conservative MP says his concern over CNOOC Ltd.'s takeover of Nexen Inc. boils down to one thing: China is not a "benevolent" country.
Emerging Monday from the first national Conservative caucus meeting since June, Calgary West MP Rob Anders – a persistent China critic – appeared to be focusing his concern on the need for conditions on the takeover, rather than hoping his government strikes down the $15.1-billion deal outright.
"I'm never in favour of the whole state ownership thing, and especially in the case of a non-benevolent country like China, but I am breaking it apart into three separate contexts to be kind of objective and fair if I can with regard to the shareholders in this case," Mr. Anders said Monday.
Mr. Anders said there should be added focus on the difference between Nexen's foreign and Canadian assets, as well as whether the deal raises concerns over intellectual property.
"I was talking to some fellows in Calgary who are fairly involved with the oil patch and I know they were concerned about intellectual property that Nexen has with regard to some of their drilling techniques and whatnot," he said.
Industry Minister Christian Paradis – and ultimately Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet – must decide this fall whether or not to approve the deal.
Mr. Anders argues that there's a difference between Chinese state-owned enterprises investing in Canada, and similar companies owned by other states, pointing to the example of Canadian energy investments by Norway's Statoil.
"I'm never a fan of state ownership of resources, particularly in China's case because I don't believe it's a benevolent state. In the case of Norway, it's a much more benevolent state than China is. It doesn't have the human rights record that China does," he said.
Mr. Anders said other colleagues share some of his concerns.
That view was echoed by Edmonton-St. Albert Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber, who said the government will need to follow through on its promise to release clear rules around takeovers and which ones the government will consider to be a "net benefit" to Canada.
"I share some of my caucus colleagues concerns with respect to the Chinese government's record on human rights," said Mr. Rathgeber.
"And I also believe very strongly in respect for shareholders' rights, so I think unless there's some overwhelming public purpose in putting the breaks on a sale, the shareholders should be able to do with a company what they want. This is a very, very complicated file and certainly there are Canadian companies that want to do business in China and that too might be compromised if Canada were to decide that this particular takeover didn't pass the net benefit."