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The real decision that Stephen Harper needs to make about deals like the Chinese takeover of Calgary-based oil firm Nexen is whether he can use them as a bargaining chip.

Mr. Harper must make a call soon on whether he allows China’s CNOOC Ltd. to buy Nexen for $15.1-billion, and in the process, he’s promising to set out new guidelines for foreign takeovers.

The business community and the NDP are calling for the murky rules for foreign-investment approvals to be clarified. Still, when it comes to state-owned enterprises, the rules must leave enough room to apply a little leverage. China, after all,...

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