Canada’s Foreign Direct Investment Challenge: Reducing Barriers and Ensuring a Level Playing Field in the Face of Sovereign Wealth Funds and State-Owned Enterprises
Recent takeovers – and attempted takeovers – of strategic resource companies have renewed concerns that some of Canada’s prized corporate players are falling into foreign hands. However, data shows that Canada has not been a significant attractor of multinational investment, lagging behind a number of developed and developing nations. Indeed, since the mid-1990s, Canada has been a net exporter of capital in world markets, as foreign direct investment by Canadian companies far outpaced the inflow of foreign capital. Rather than being hollowed out, we are hollowing out other countries. As a general policy, Canada should reduce barriers to foreign direct investment and welcome our growing role in international markets. As many studies have shown, foreign direct investment brings significant net benefits to the Canadian economy, including knowledge transfers, new management, better wages and productivity. Only in limited circumstances, such as in the case of protecting Canada’s national security, should Canada block foreign takeovers of Canadian companies. In the interest of neutrality and minimizing economic distortions, takeovers of Canadian companies by foreign sovereign wealth funds or state-owned enterprises should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. When state-owned enterprises have similar commercial objectives and operate on a level-playing field without financial support by state owners, they could also provide net benefits to the Canadian economy. One important area that requires further consideration is with respect to the tax-exempt status of sovereign wealth funds and state-owned companies. Canadian tax treaties should be reviewed to ensure that Canadian withholding taxes maintain an even playing field among private and state-owned businesses operating in Canada.
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