Canada’s status in the Indo-Pacific region set to be boosted as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations prepares to make Ottawa its final strategic partner during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Indonesia .
This decision by the organization is a symbolic gesture that recognizes Canada’s expanded presence in the region and reflects the progress made under a Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement.
The partnership will be ratified when Trudeau is in Jakarta on Tuesday and Wednesday alongside Commerce Minister Mary Ng.
Trudeau left Ottawa on Sunday evening with his son Xavier.
During his visit, he will meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo to discuss the fight against climate change, food security and the development of economic ties, including energy production and trade.
The launch of the ASEAN-Canada strategic partnership will take place on Wednesday, and Trudeau is also expected to deliver a speech.
“ASEAN feels that the engagement with Canada is much deeper than perhaps it was before,” Wayne Farmer, chairman of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council, said in an interview from Jakarta, in Indonesia.
“We’re negotiating more, we’re engaging more, and that’s a good thing for us to see. This is another small step in the right direction.
The ASEAN bloc, made up of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has been strengthening its ties with Canada since years.
Although not a strategic partner until this visit, the bloc began negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada in 2021. Farmer, who is taking part in those talks, said the talks are progressing well.
Another round of negotiations is expected later this month, with the parties agreeing to finalize a deal by 2025.
Farmer said it was unusual to see Canada given this trade opportunity because other countries, such as the United States and the European Union, already ASEAN’s strategic partners, have pushed for their own trade negotiations with the bloc.
“We certainly pulled off a coup by being selected,” Farmer said.
The Indo-Pacific is Canada’s second-largest merchandise export market after the United States, with annual two-way trade valued at $270 billion last year.
But Gaphel Kongtsa, director of international policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the top priority for local businesses was to lower trade barriers in the region.
Canada’s merchandise trade with ASEAN grew by nearly 29 percent in 2022, with agribusiness being one of the most important economic sectors.
“There is a real need for Canadian talent and the goods they can provide to the region,” Kongtsa said.
This need has increased following the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which have also amplified calls in the Indo-Pacific region for a accelerated energy transition.
“These regions use a lot of coal as a source of energy, and in my opinion, the best thing Canada can do to help reduce global emissions is to get countries that use coal to switch to these other forms of energy. energy,” said Goldy Hyder, CEO of the Business Council of Canada.
ASEAN sees Canada and its companies as allies in providing the technology, services and products it needs to tackle food insecurity, green energy transition and building smart cities, Farmer said.
“There is a balance here, especially with developing countries, to continue to grow their economies, lift their populations to the middle cla*s and to economic prosperity with an energy transition to mitigate environmental impacts,” Farmer said. .
Government officials say this is an overarching theme Trudeau will address in Jakarta: promoting climate action while fostering economic growth.
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