Canada and ASEAN’s dynamic ties

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Neil Reeder - The Philippine Star

While Canada’s east coast looks across the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe, Canada’s huge geography also includes an important Pacific dimension.

Our Pacific coastline faces Asia and the reality today is that it is increasingly with Asia that we enjoy growing political, commercial and people-to-people ties.

Canada sees itself as an integral part of Asia-Pacific, including the ASEAN community of which the Philippines is an important member.

At the people-to-people level, there are growing ties between Canada and ASEAN, based on immigration, travel, studies and tourism. In 2012, ASEAN represented the top source region for permanent residents in Canada at over 37,500 permanent residents. Nearly 10,000 students from ASEAN studied in Canada in 2012. And in cities like Vancouver, on Canada’s Pacific coast, the community of Asian descent constitutes an important part of the population.

ASEAN and Canada are also key economic partners based on increasing commercial exchanges. Canadian economic growth depends in an important way on our export capacity and we are always seeking new markets for exports of our high-quality goods and services. For example, our bilateral merchandise trade with ASEAN countries totalled C$17 billion in 2013. Merchandise exports from ASEAN to Canada were C$11.5 billion.

Today, ASEAN is our seventh largest merchandise trading partner.

Similarly, direct investment flows from Canada to ASEAN are important, and create jobs and opportunity for those in this region. Canadian FDI in ASEAN now totals more than $500 million and in fact, Canada has more direct investment in the ASEAN countries than it has in China and India combined.

The new ASEAN Economic Community that will become a reality next year will reinforce ASEAN’s position at the centre of Asia’s emerging architecture, and better position it as a key economic actor and a commercial partner for Canada. Efforts to expand free trade through the ASEAN Economic Community will be welcomed by Canada, one of the most free-trade oriented countries in the world.

Canada and ASEAN also enjoy a longstanding engagement as Dialogue Partners, and Canada became an ASEAN Dialogue Partner in 1977.

In an effort to move the relationship to the next level, Canada also seeks to engage ASEAN at the head of government level. In 2012, Prime Minister Harper made an official request to ASEAN asking that Canada be admitted to the East Asia Summit process.

Reflecting our deep commitment to ASEAN engagement, Canada has also increased its diplomatic presence in the region, appointing our first ambassador to ASEAN in 2009, and opening new diplomatic offices in Asia.

Canada has also stepped up to provide new financial support for a number of ASEAN initiatives over the past years. This includes funding for the implementation of the ASEAN-Canada Plan of Action (POA) and the ASEAN-Canada Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment, which supports all three pillars of the ASEAN Community.

Under ASEAN’s Political Security Community, Canada is a founding member of the ASEAN Regional Forum. We are also funding a number of security initiatives within the region. On the human rights front, Canada supports the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) achieve its objectives and has provided funding to UN Women to support the activities of AICHR.

Canada also supports ASEAN’s Economic Community Building objective by providing $4.5 million to the ASEAN Infrastructure Centre of Excellence in Singapore, in partnership with the ADB and IE Singapore, among others.

In the ASEAN Social Cultural Community, Canada supports the implementation of various initiatives on disaster management and emergency response, promotion and protection of women and children’s rights, public health research, and protection of migrant workers’ rights.

In summary, Canada’s engagement with ASEAN is sustained, forward-looking and substantive. As Canada increasingly becomes part of the Asia-Pacific reality, we look forward to closer collaboration with ASEAN in the future.

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(Neil Reeder is the Ambassador of Canada.)


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