Canada-ASEAN Strategic Partnership Deepens, Boosting Economic Ties and Climate Action

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Canada is poised to elevate its status within the Indo-Pacific through a strategic partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This alliance is expected to be formalized during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s upcoming visit to Indonesia. This development signifies ASEAN’s recognition of Canada’s growing influence in the region and reflects advancements made on a Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement.

The partnership will be inaugurated during Trudeau’s visit to Jakarta this Tuesday and Wednesday, which he undertook with his son Xavier and Trade Minister Mary Ng. The Prime Minister’s official agenda includes a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to discuss measures related to climate change, food security, and enhancement of economic relations. These interconnected topics encompass energy production and trade.

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“The ASEAN believes engagement with Canada is much deeper than it perhaps used to be,” stated Wayne Farmer, president of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council. “We trading more, we’re engaging more, and it’s a good thing to see for us. It’s another little incremental step in the right direction,” he added during an interview from Jakarta.

The ASEAN collective, which includes Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, has consistently reinforced its relationship with Canada. Regardless of not previously being a strategic partner, it began negotiations for a free-trade agreement with Canada in 2021, with additional rounds of discussion expected later in the month, aiming for an ultimate resolution by 2025.

Farmer reflects that Canada acquiring this trading opportunity is remarkable, considering other strategic ASEAN partners such as the United States and the European Union have been actively lobbying for their own trade negotiations with the ASEAN countries.

Stressing the importance of the Indo-Pacific, Farmer points out that it represents Canada’s second-largest merchandise export market after the United States, featuring an annual two-way trade volume of $270 billion. Concurrently, reducing trade barriers within the region remains a top priority for Canadian businesses.

Following the economic upheavals wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the demand for Canadian products and expertise in the region has surged, particularly in the agribusiness sector.

ASEAN perceives Canada and its corporate entities as potential partners in providing the technology, services, and products necessary to tackle food insecurity, enable a green energy transition, and facilitate the construction of smart cities.

Canada also strives to strike a balance in simultaneously helping these developing nations continue their economic advancement and executing an energy transition to lessen environmental impacts. It’s an overall theme that Trudeau is expected to address during his time in Jakarta: propelling climate action while fostering economic growth.