Many Canadians do not favour closer economic ties with China and would like to see Ottawa discourage Chinese investment in all but a few sectors, according to a new survey from the Angus Reid Institute.
Eighty-five per cent of Canadians say Chinese investment in Canada is either “equally good or bad,” (50 per cent) or “more bad than good,” (35 per cent) according to the report.
About half of those who thought Chinese investment was “more bad than good” said “Canada needs to stay in charge of its own economy.” Others cited security concerns, human rights or potential corruption.
More than half of Canadians said it was even worth risking potential “economic consequences” with China if it meant discouraging Chinese investment and preventing Chinese takeovers of Canadian companies, the survey found.
While many Canadians think foreign investment is a mixed bag, they were particularly hostile to investment from China, the report found.
“Funds from Europe, the U.S., and the U.K. are generally more welcomed than those from China,” said the report.
Eight in ten Canadians said they oppose Chinese investment in military or defence companies. About two-thirds said Canada should discourage Chinese investment in the agriculture and resource sector, while nearly three-quarters oppose Chinese investment in Canada’s banking and finance companies.
Canadians are not completely opposed to Chinese investment. A majority of Canadians said Ottawa should encourage Chinese investment to fund manufacturing, retail, or technology projects.
The ambivalence to Chinese investment in Canada was widespread, according to the report. “This opinion is relatively stable across age and gender and finds Albertans and Atlantic Canadians most enthusiastic about further investment,” according to the report.
The findings come as Canada tires to negotiate a free trade deal with China and boost Canada’s $60 billion in trade with the world’s second-largest economy.
Chinese foreign direct investment in Canada stood at about $20 billion in 2016, according to the OECD. That’s up from just $5 billion in 2007, but still relatively small.
Uncertainty about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement is also causing concern among Canadians, the report said. Forty-four per cent of Canadians say Ottawa should develop closer trade ties with the European Union, compared to 41 per cent, who say Canada should continue to focus on the U.S..
When Angus Reid asked the same question in February, 49 per cent of Canadians said Ottawa should focus on the U.S. while just 33 per cent chose the EU.