An overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose investors and the sale of two technology companies with clients and think that these takeovers ought to be a priority for national-security reviews, according to a opinion survey.
Despite these concerns, a survey by Nanos Research discovered a majority of Canadians favour the government’s pursuit of a bilateral agreement with Beijing. More than half of Canadians say that the degree of “friendliness between China and Canada is appropriate.”
But the Nanos poll shows that over three-quarters of Canadians oppose Ottawa decisions to permit investors to purchase two high tech companies that have developed technology.
“For many Canadians, they really feel those transactions put Canada at risk,” pollster Nik Nanos said in an interview. “If the government continues to embark on this course, it will most likely be a substantial political danger for them.”
In June, the Liberal government approved the takeover of Norsat International with a controversial Chinese telecom giant without running an extensive national-security review, though the Vancouver business sells its satellite technology into the U.S. military, NATO and other foreign government forces.
The Pentagon announced last Monday it was reviewing all its contracts with Norsat following members of the U.S. House of Representatives armed services committee and a congressional watchdog commission increased national-security concerns about the takeover by Hytera Communications, which U.S. rival Motorola has accused of a large theft of its intellectual property.
In March, the cabinet rescinded a decision by the government which had blocked ITF Technologies’ sale . The takeover had been opposed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service on grounds that it would lead to the transfer of military laser technology to China.
The Nanos survey found 76 percent of Canadians oppose or somewhat oppose Norsat’s takeover while 18 percent support or support the purchaseprice. Nearly four-fifths or oppose the purchase of ITF Technologies of China or 78 percent of Canadians oppose.
“Although people understand it’s necessary to have good trade relations with China, they find it even more challenging to comprehend why trades that could directly impact our national security or have military functions — the way that connects,” Mr. Nanos said.
Trade relations with China has contributed Liberals to loosen restrictions on investment, and is a objective for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In April, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang used a Private Phone call with Mr. Trudeau on Tuesday to press Canada to relax controls on exports of high technology to China. “The Chinese Premier hoped that Canada would relax the constraints on high-tech exports to China, believing this could be very helpful to a balanced development of bilateral trade,” Xinhua, China’s state-controlled news agency, reported at the time.
The New York Times reported earlier this year that the U.S. Defence Department was concerned about the flow of Chinese investment to startups working on significant technology such as artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented reality.
Critics say by foregoing national-security reviews that China has denounced as 19, that the Liberals are trying to appease China. Ottawa is in the middle of talks that are exploratory.
1,000 Canadians — conducted June 24-27’s survey found 39 percent believe the top priority for national-security reviews should be purchases of businesses by companies in China. The survey found 26 percent of Canadians felt the priority for such reviews should be takeovers by companies. Only 9 per cent thought U.S. purchases ought to be the top priority and 1 percent felt Japanese acquisitions should get the best attention.
54 percent of Canadians support or support the government’s pursuit of a free-trade agreement compared with or oppose a trade agreement.
This level of support is an increase from 18 months ago, soon after Mr. Trudeau took power, when a Nanos survey showed 41-per-cent support or somewhat support a free-trade agreement with China and 47 percent opposed or somewhat opposed such an accord. Mr. Nanos said Canadians shouldn’t underestimate how Mr. Trudeau’s friendly approach to China, a contrast from former prime minister Stephen Harper, affects public perceptions of the merit of such an agreement.
“It is pretty obvious that Justin Trudeau is familiar about free trade with China and having good relations with China and that constant sort of message and kind of effort over an extended period of time pays off about individuals’ perceptions of free trade with China,” he said. “The cautionary note needs to do with national-security concerns … it is very obvious that Canadians visit China and to a lesser extent Russia as leading threats to our safety.”
In April, Mr. Nanos conducted a poll for The Globe that found almost nine in 10 Canadians are “uncomfortable” with the notion of China’s big, government-controlled companies gaining more access to Canada’s economy — an almost inevitable element of any free-trade agreement with Beijing.