‘Coherent strategy’ needed to secure trade links in Asia: ADF Canada

Report says Canada needs to step up participation in Asian institutions.

VANCOUVER — If Canada wants to secure its place in Asia, it will require comprehensive engagement that extends beyond a commercially focused, and bilateral-centred approach, according to a taskforce report published by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

ADF cites Canada’s contact with various Asian organizations as key to building trade relationships.

Canada is a member of APEC, and talking to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). It also participates in non-official forums such as the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) and the Shangri-La Dialogue. Canada is not a member of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting ++ or the East Asia Summit.

Final approval is pending to join the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations but ADF said Canada has not concluded a single free trade agreement with any Asian country.

“Some might question the value of Canada joining process-filled forums in Asia, but keep in mind that the rules of engagement in Asia are different,” said Don Campbell, a co-author of the report. “Being active participants at these tables is critical to building long-term trust with Asian counterparts. This is ultimately vital to Canada’s long-term prosperity.”

Securing Canada’s Place in Asia: Institutions, Means and Mechanisms offers the following recommendations:

• Establish a coordinating unit with access to senior government officials on Canada’s participation in Asia and convene on a regular basis with non-government stakeholders.

• Formalize and sustain a bilateral dialogue with the US focused on Asia.

• Strengthen existing bilateral dialogues with strategic Asian partners including China, Japan, India, South Korea and Indonesia.

• Seek early admission into the East Asia Summit.

• Volunteer to chair and host APEC in 2017.

• Seek admission into the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting ++.

• Consider appointing a Canadian Ambassador dedicated to ASEAN.

• Conclude as a matter of urgency a FTA with South Korea.

• Pursue as a top priority comprehensive economic partnership negotiations with Japan.

• Move towards a trade agreement with China.

• Conclude trade negotiations with India.

• Secure final approval for participation in the TPP negotiations.

The Vancouver-based Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada is a not-for-profit, independent resource for Canadians on contemporary Asia and Canada-Asia relations.

Co-authors of the report include Don Campbell, senior strategy advisor to Davis LLP; Paul Evans, professor of Asian international relations at the University of British Columbia; and Pierre Lortie, senior business advisor at Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP.

Click here for a copy of the report.