Canadians uneasy about Asia’s rise: APF Canada

Canadians uneasy about Asia's rise: APF Canada.

VANCOUVER — While acknowledging the importance of Asia for Canada’s prosperity, Canadians have limited enthusiasm for pursuing opportunities in the Asia Pacific region, according to the results of a poll by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada).

“There is a growing discrepancy between Canadians’ understanding of Asia’s importance and their willingness to do something about it,” said Yuen Pau Woo, president and CEO of the APF. “More Canadians appear to be hesitating as they face tougher decisions about how to advance the Canada-Asia relationship.”

The annual poll shows fewer people see Canada as part of the Asia Pacific region – down 11 points from last year at 18%. And they are especially cooler towards China with unfavourable or ‘cool’ feelings exceeding those with favourable views by a factor of three.

However, the APF, a Vancouver-based think tank focusing on Canada’s relations with Asia, said China tops the list of Asian countries Canadians believe should receive greater emphasis in terms of foreign relations (54%). They also view China as the most important Asian country for Canada’s prosperity (45%).

The poll results show Canadians are hesitant to engage more deeply with Asian countries on economic matters. Fewer are enthusiastic about Canada entering into free trade deals with Japan (60%, down 3% from 2012) or China (42%, down 6% from 2012).

While 50% believe Canada would benefit from more Asian investment, support has fallen seven points from 12 months ago. Most respondents remain opposed to direct investment from Asian state-owned enterprises, particularly from China (76%), India (72%) and Japan (58%).

Respondents are also divided over how to proceed on energy relations with Asia. Most support building pipelines to export natural gas (54%) to ports on Canada’s west coast for export to Asia. However, fewer people now feel a sense of urgency to take advantage of Asian countries’ need for energy resources (53% in 2013 vs. 61% in 2012).

They are more positive about building ties with Asia through cultural exchanges (70%), increasing student exchanges and university agreements (59%) or providing development assistance to Asian countries that demonstrate progress in fostering democratic norms (64%).

The poll was conducted online between March 8 to March 15 among 3,474 Canadian adults with a margin of error of +/- 1.7% for entire sample.

Click here for results.