Canada and Taiwan - Progress for Both

  • 06 Dec, 2016
                                                   Thanks to Robert-Falcon Ouellette, MP for the photo.A Win-Win Tax BillBill S-4, Canada-Taiwan Avoidance of Double Taxation Arrangement (“ADTA”)Remarks for House of Commons Finance CommitteeJohn Weston, Dec 5, 2016IntroductionMr. Chair - It’s a great honor to be here.  I wear three hats in speaking today. Between 2008 and 2015, I served as the MP for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country.  Secondly, I was based in Taiwan for 10
                                                   Thanks to Robert-Falcon Ouellette, MP for the photo.
A Win-Win Tax Bill
Bill S-4, Canada-Taiwan Avoidance of Double Taxation Arrangement (“ADTA”)
Remarks for House of Commons Finance Committee
John Weston, Dec 5, 2016
Mr. Chair - It’s a great honor to be here.  I wear three hats in speaking today. Between 2008 and 2015, I served as the MP for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country.  Secondly, I was based in Taiwan for 10 years, from where I did business in Hong Kong, China and throughout the Pacific Rim.  Having been liberated by the electors last year, I’ve returned to law practice, in Pacific Rim law, Govt Affairs, and Indigenous Affairs.  I’m now at one of Canada’s leading business law firms, McMillan, which has offices in HK, Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, and other places.
Ironically, when I received the invitation to present today, I was just putting the finishing touches on my book, Lighting People’s Hearts on Fire - Seeking Excellence in Leadership.  In the book I comment on how much more relevant and effective Committee work could be.  Yet it’s hard to imagine how your Committee might discuss any more concrete, relevant, and effective ways to help Canadians who invest and do business in Israel, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Given my background, I’ll focus remarks on Taiwan, where I resided for the eventful decade, between 1986 and 1997.  I had the honor of serving as one of the first two Canadians at the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei when it was launched in 1986 under the ambitious and highly respected Bob Kelly.  That followed over 16 years of a vacuum, when Canada had no diplomatic presence in Taiwan, after severing ties with Taiwan in 1970.  The semi-diplomatic office was established clearly within the context of our One China Policy, which governs our diplomatic relations to this day.
When I arrived in 1986, martial law was in force, as it had been since 1949.  Opposition parties were illegal and all papers were controlled.    I got to witness first hand one of the most dramatic democratic transformations the world has seen, all without a shot being fired.  Unlike when I arrived, today there is an independent judiciary; free speech and an uncensored press; freedom of association; free travel to China and other places; a freely trading currency; and, of course, free elections.  You’ll note the number of times I used the word “free” in the last sentence.
Voting participation rates in the last 5 Taiwan Presidential elections have averaged over 76%.  It’s a mark of robust democracy that Taiwan produces such high-calibre, well-educated leaders to serve in government, including past President Ma Ying-Jeou and new President, Ing-wen Tsai, both of whom are Ivy League-educated lawyers.  Dr. Tsai has achieved international fame, as the first female President of Taiwan, and after last weekend, as someone who knows how to place an important phone call.
From 2013 through 2015, I headed the Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, known for its hard work, cross-party camaraderie, and productivity.  In that Group, we learned the virtues of the type of Accord you are considering today.   Such agreements are typical signs of progress between jurisdictions that encourage friendship, free trade, investment, and increased exchange between peoples. 
 List of Benefits
There are at least 10 benefits to expect from this Accord.  Deft drafting and careful diplomacy have eliminated the one impediment that delayed this Accord for over 20 years.  Here are the 10 benefits:
1) Encourages trade with a democratic jurisdiction.
2)  Allocates taxing rights between the two jurisdictions so that taxpayers are not subject to double taxation.
3)  Reduces the risk of excessive taxation that may arise because of high withholding taxes on payments of dividends, interest, remittances and royalties paid by a resident of one jurisdiction to a resident of the other.
4)  Ensures that taxpayers will not be subject to discriminatory taxation in the foreign jurisdiction.
5)  Provides greater certainty to taxpayers regarding their potential tax liability in the foreign jurisdiction.
6)  Encourages adherence to the rule of law for people by promoting tax compliance.
7)  Increases tax revenues.
8) Discourages good Canadians from renouncing their citizenship.  Canadians who hold dual US citizenship are renouncing their US citizenship in increasing numbers due to arbitrary and capricious practices by the IRS and the US Treasury Dept.
9) The ADTA paves the way to other promising economic arrangements, including a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement and a free trade agreement.
10) Takes advantage of good timing.  There is peace across Taiwan Straits, so it’s easier for Canada to engage with both Beijing and Taipei while adhering resolutely to our One China Policy.
2.  Impact on Canada-Taiwan Investment Environment
Ever since I have been involved with Taiwan, I’ve observed that two-way investment occurs at a level far below what you would expect, given the level of bilateral trade and the number of people who have both Canadian and Taiwanese heritage.  According to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, there are about 50,000 Canadian passport holders in Taiwan and up to 150,000 Taiwan passport holders in Canada.  On two-way investment, the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei reports that Taiwan is currently Canada’s 12th largest trading partner.  Bilateral trade in 2015 was over $6 billion, with Canada exporting approximately $1.5 billion in goods and services to Taiwan. 
Despite this robust trade and economic relationship, two-way investment flows are underperforming. According to Statistics Canada, Taiwan’s FDI stocks in Canada in 2015 stood at only $108 million, ranking Taiwan as our 40th largest investor worldwide, while Canadian direct investment stock in Taiwan in 2015 amounted to only $115 million.
The Canadian Trade Office in Taipei reports that a number of bilateral investment deals are pending that would benefit from the provisions within the ADTA.
3.  Negative Effects or Downsides
The ADTA was signed on January 15, 2016 in Taipei, and passed by the Taiwan Legislature in February, following nearly two decades of discussion and negotiation.  Delays in getting this done relate most directly to one concern; that of offending the PRC, in the context of the One China Relationship.  This Bill avoids offending that relationship through deft legislative drafting.  You will note use of words such as “territory” and “jurisdiction”.  This avoids the implication that Canada is affording diplomatic recognition to Taiwan as an independent country.  The signatories are the two trade offices, not governments directly.  This Accord has been carefully designed to navigate the tightrope which all but Donald Trump require when promoting relations with Taiwan.
In conclusion, this Accord is expected to help facilitate increased two-way investment by significantly lowering withholding tax rates.  As I’ve related, there are in total at least 10 concrete benefits and no serious downside risks.  I therefore recommend that the Committee support S-4.
You have some urgency here.  The Agreement will enter into effect once Canada has completed its legal procedures and the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada notify each other in writing of the completion of the procedures. Should this occur before December 31, 2016, the new ADTA will come into effect on January 1, 2017. Should it pass, but not receive royal assent before December 31, it would come into effect on January 1, 2018.  Getting this done before the House rises will create a valuable year of potential investment between  Canada and Taiwan.
I look forward to your questions.

John Weston Blog

By John Weston 12 Dec, 2017
The story of John Chang hit the news last week, one of many recent cases involving Canadians imprisoned in China, at a time when the Justin Trudeau Government is trying hard to court Beijing for an improved trading relationship. 

CTV reported that Mr. Chang and his wife, owners of a Lulu Island Winery in Richmond, B.C. were arrested in Shanghai in March 2016 while visiting suppliers and agents, accused of under-reporting the value of wine they export to China. Their daughter Amy has done a masterful job of involving senior Canadian officials and the media to focus attention on her parents’ plight.

The incident reminded me of one of my most popular (and useful) articles, a piece called Getting Out of Foreign Jails. I wrote it to address the recurring pattern that arises when situations like Mr. Chen’s occur. Inevitably, the family has never faced such an array of problems before. Its natural tendency is to rely on our own government for help. This reliance typically generates positive short-term results but, to achieve a positive outcome, the family and friends have go go beyond reliance on the home government. The article Careful Strategies are Needed when Helping Canadians Incarcerated Abroad,   ran last year in The Vancouver Sun. Here it is again:
By John Weston 06 Dec, 2017
What did you think about when you got up this morning? I was putting the finishing touches on a new website. You were doing something else. It’s safe to say that neither of us was thinking about abandoned vessels.

But the saga of this problem, its snarling of government processes, the waste it caused, and the environmental damage - called out for change. Here’s what some of us did - and why persistence and good strategy can pay off to change government policy and make things right.

As Member of Parliament, I saw the blight caused by irresponsible people who dumped their boats like parkland litter. They left a trail of pollution, eyesores, harmful waste, and legal liability. Directionless governments floundered to assert or evade responsibility. In one case, a single person acquired and casually abandoned four separate vessels off the coast of Squamish, B.C.

I introduced Private Member’s Bill C-695 in the House of Commons in 2015, reflecting input from a wide variety of people who cared about the health of our seas, tourism, navigational safety, and saving taxpayers’ funds. The issue seemed intractable, cutting across various departments within the Federal and provincial governments, as well as local government jurisdiction. Governments were loath to take responsibility. Abandoned vessels can be costly to remove and give rise to various types of liability. My Bill proposed for the first time that anyone who intentionally abandoned a vessel be subject to a fine or jail term. It attracted support from mariners, local governments, the Transport Minister, the Conservative Party of Canada, and even my Liberal opponent in the last election.

The Bill didn’t pass - it died with the last Federal Government, in June 2015. But the story has a positive outcome. The current Liberal Government contributed formal funding to deal with the problem. It created a program to educate boat owners how responsibly to manage and recycle their vessels, rather than merely abandon them. And in October of this year, it introduced legislation to do exactly what my bill proposed - make persons accountable for their actions. The new Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act will for the first time make it explicitly illegal to abandon boats, while empowering the government to go after the owners of the 600 derelict vessels already polluting the country’s waterways.
If the bill becomes law, Individuals who abandon a boat can face fines up to $300,000 and a six-month jail term, while corporations can be fined as much as $6 million.

People and companies who share my concerns about government and public affairs should take heart. With perseverance, good strategy, and the collaboration of like-minded allies, you can change even the most complicated of government policies.

I hope readers enjoy a 2018 filled with health and happiness and, before that, a wonderful Christmas. Us? Our family will gather in both Ottawa and West Vancouver to celebrate this special season.
By John Weston 04 Dec, 2017
It’s out of fashion to refer to locker room conversations, after Donald Trump equated them with ballads of sexual assault. In spite of Trump’s demeaning, the locker room is still a place where tough questions get posed. And so it was last week when someone asked in the West Vancouver Swimming Pool changing room what counsel I’d give to be a Member of Parliament.

The question was timely as I join other Canadians on the lookout for people who demonstrate good leadership , both in their current experience and in their potential. I’m particularly keen to see good candidates run to succeed me as the Conservative Candidate for the riding I represented from 2008 through 2015, West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country. But more generally I’m committed to encourage good leadership beyond that specific role, whether in politics, business, faith communities, or families.

And in an era when common discourse delights in the disparagement of leaders, why wouldn’t we all join in a commitment to encourage key values that mould good leaders and support good leaders themselves?

What kind of person would I be looking for who aspires to leadership, as M.P. or in any other role? For me, the short answer is that a person going into leadership should know his or her objectives, identify her or his most important values, and take specific steps to fortify those values in anticipation of upcoming storms.

What storms should you anticipate? As a leader in any realm, but particularly in my experience as a West Coast M.P., expect pressure on your marriage and on your role as a parent. Those pressures should be obvious. Your anticipated responsibilities separate you from the ones you love, in space, time, and energy. The problems of juggling these things against a 5000 kilometer commute are clear but those problems may arise in any demanding leadership role.

As Shakespeare wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” In addition to the pressures on one’s close personal relationships come two other more subtle nemeses. Firstly, persons in leadership encounter challenges to character that come with the territory. Greed, anger, lust, pride, envy, gluttony, and sloth - Augustine’s famous “Seven Sins” can each creep into a leader’s life. Anyone seeking leadership would do well to ensure a level of accountability to reliable role models who can confidentially but firmly keep the leader on a high plane. In my own case, I was fortunate to have three tough-minded men of faith act as my “Three Wise Men” to help ensure that integrity prevailed over politics whenever the two conflicted.

The fourth challenge, most subtle of all, is to ensure the aspiring leader accomplishes more for the people he or she serves by carrying out the position than by doing something else. There’s no point in climbing a ladder if it’s placed against the wrong wall. This question is never easy but may be particularly complicated when non-politicians consider seeking public office.

There are no perfect formulas for answering these questions. In searching for a successor to run for the Conservative Party where I live, I’ll be looking for someone who believes in the Party and the Leader. But I’ll also be looking for someone with values that set apart people who aspire to leadership in any walk of life: values such as those canvassed in my book - On! Achieving Excellence in Public Life: Integrity, Responsibility, Courage, Compassion, Freedom, Equality, Fitness, and Resolve. You may have a different list. But I’m willing to bet you’d agree that we Canadians would all benefit if we took steps to cultivate those values in ourselves and in others. And, don’t forget, though you may not recognize it, you are a leader yourself, as you lead your own life and influence your family, community, and country.

John Weston serves on a committee that is actively seeking people with leadership qualities to run for Member of Parliament in 2019. The photo, by the author, is of the statue to world class sprinter, the later Harry Jerome, in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

By John Weston 01 Nov, 2017
I am delighted that Powell River and the Tla’amin Nation have received public recognition of their healthy relationship (“BC Treaty Commission praises Tla’amin Nation relations”, Chris Bolster, Sept 27, 2017; . The story rightly reflects the hard work and goodwill of specific individuals, such as Chief Clint Williams, Mayor Dave Formosa, and former Mayor Stewart Alsgard. As former MP for Powell River, I observed firsthand the healthy relationship between Chief, Mayor, and Regional District and worked closely with them. Among other things, we together precipitated unprecedented amounts of Federal government cooperation and investment in Powell River.

However, it’s a pity that in Indigenous Affairs, things tend to be painted in black-and-white tones. Nuances and middle ground become the victim of polarized thinking. Leaders and media find themselves speaking half-truths that undermine good, long-term results.

So it was in Chief Williams’ stating that, as former MP, I “was blocking the First Nation’s attempts at communicating with the Federal Government”. That is just wrong. In fact, Chief Williams initially brought me into the discussion when a fisheries issue was impeding progress on the Treaty negotiation. As a member of the Fisheries Committee and a consistent supporter of treaty-making in general, I sought and got a resolution to that issue that allowed progress on the Tla’amin Treaty.

In its March 31, 2014 issue, the Powell River Peak covered the townhall discussion in Powell River, when residents and I discussed my concern, that the Treaty states Tla’amin Law will in some situations prevail over Canadian law (“Weston speaks against the treaty,” Dean Unger, . Throughout my career as a lawyer in Indigenous Affairs and as a politician, I have consistently stood up for equality and human rights. We should never allow the law of any community, religious group, or Aboriginal group to prevail over Canadian law. The unity of our country, its peace, order, and good government, and the equal rights of Canadians depend on our being governed by one law, equal for all, regardless of race, colour, or creed. While our Constitution, the Indian Act, and court decisions have led us in other directions, we as Canadians need vigorously to pursue equality whenever we get the chance.

As MP and as Member of the Minister’s Caucus Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, I supported the Treaty, but not the “inequality” provision. I did express these views to the Prime Minister and the Minister. As elaborated in my recent book (On! Achieving Excellence in Leadership; Equality is at the centre of real, long-term reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people. For the long-term peace, order, and good government of our country, and for the benefit of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people, we Canadians ought at every turn to promote Equality in treaties, words, and deeds.

The piece ran as a letter to the editor in the Powell River Peak's Oct 4, 2017 edition.
By John Weston 01 Jun, 2017
Thank you for coming.  I’m honored to be your Master of Ceremonies for Bike Day on Parliament Hill today.Ottawa’s renowned hotel, the Chateau Laurier, was built in 1908.  The architects from the Montreal Firm Ross & McFarlane designed it to reflect the grandeur of our Parliament Buildings.  Their work continues to inspire our nation, just as it inspired the design of many other buildings in the city.In this 150th anniversary of Canada’s founding, we’re reminded that we’re building a nation. 
By John Weston 15 Feb, 2017
When an impatient bus driver dumped my daughter in Guelph, he refused to let her get her bag.  She was 16, in a town she didn’t know.  She was supposed to attend a weekend track camp.  She needed her luggage for her short stay but the driver had loaded it in the wrong compartment.  It wasn’t convenient for him to let her retrieve it.  Besides, she was just a little girl and, working for a big company, he thought he could get away with it.  When I complained to the company, no one listened or
By 11 Dec, 2016
Whistler this Christmas - why I call the area I live "The Most Beautiful Place on Earth"!Great Christmas carol selection - for those hosting a party this season - or those just wanting to expand your shower time repertoire:
By 06 Dec, 2016
                                                   Thanks to Robert-Falcon Ouellette, MP for the photo.A Win-Win Tax BillBill S-4, Canada-Taiwan Avoidance of Double Taxation Arrangement (“ADTA”)Remarks for House of Commons Finance CommitteeJohn Weston, Dec 5, 2016IntroductionMr. Chair - It’s a great honor to be here.  I wear three hats in speaking today. Between 2008 and 2015, I served as the MP for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country.  Secondly, I was based in Taiwan for 10
By 15 Nov, 2016
I was not happy about the decision of the Law Society Credentials Committee.The Committee had assessed my application to move from Non-Practice to Practice Status.   Having been elected as  Member of Parliament for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea-to-Sky Country, I’d transferred from Practice Status, to save money - around $3500 annually, for membership fees and basic insurance.   With no time to practise law, I was earning no income from the practice.  Why pay several thousand dollars
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