A security officer keeps watch outside the headquarters of China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC).
Credits: REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV/Files
OTTAWA - American politicians may become a little less comfortable with Canada if the country snuggles up to China by allowing CNOOC to swallow energy company Nexen, says a former U.S. security adviser.
"There's going to be some head-scratching on the part of more security-conscious members of Congress and China skeptics in general," said Roger Robinson, Jr., who now heads the Conflict Securities Advisory Group. "There's a growing number of Americans that may be worried - legitimately worried - about whether Canada is somehow, albeit in slow motion, mortgaging its future at some level."
Robinson spoke Wednesday during a panel discussion hosted by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa regarding Chinese state-owned CNOOC's $15 billion bid for Calgary-based Nexen.
With CNOOC tightly controlled by China's communist dictatorship and tied to the Chinese military as well as the country's intelligence service, Robinson fears the company is unpredictable.
"Does this appear to be an appropriate moment for Canada to simply cross its fingers, take the plunge on the Nexen transaction as currently configured and hope for the best?" he asked. "I simply don't think so."
A former senior CSIS official told the panel he's very suspicious of CNOOC.
"Is it reasonable to call it opaque? Absolutely," said Ray Boisvert, who now leads I-Sec Integrated Strategies. "Are there normal or typical rules of corporate governance? Absolutely not."
Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, argues that rejection of CNOOC's bid would leave money on the table.
"We could be talking about tens of billions of dollars, perhaps several hundred billion dollars," said Houlden.
He says the energy sector doesn't face the same security risks as the tech sector.
"I'm less concerned in security terms about an energy play, or a resource play, than I am about small, high-tech companies that have something that can be carried away in a briefcase," he said.