On September 1, the Canada-ASEAN Business Council (CABC) participated at a dialogue with the Economic Ministers from the ASEAN and Canada (“the Ministers”) for the 7th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM)-Canada Consultations in Singapore.

The Consultations were co-chaired by H.E. Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry, Singapore and the Honourable James Gordon Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification, Canada. 

The President of the CABC, Mr. Wayne Farmer, first gave an update on the CABC and its work in the past year.

“As the voice of the Canadian private sector in ASEAN, the CABC advocates for the policies that enable our best possible trading relationship,” said Mr. Farmer, as the CABC outlined the key policy recommendations by its Members that will benefit the entire business community within ASEAN.

According to the July 2018 CABC Members Survey, acceleration of formal discussion on an ASEAN-Canada free trade agreement is ranked by Canadian businesses in the ASEAN as their top advocacy concern.

Similarly, in Canada, research conducted by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in early 2018, showed increasing support for more engagement with ASEAN, with 63% of Canadians supporting an ASEAN-Canada FTA, compared with less than 40% in 2014. 

The CABC’s Honorary Chairman, the Honourable Jean Charest, also sent a letter to Minister Carr, expressing the immense benefits of the logical trading partnership that is an ASEAN-Canada FTA.

“The current global trading environment is one of caution and protectionism, yet Canada and ASEAN are well positioned to stand together as champions of open trade,” said Mr. Farmer.

At the dialogue, the CABC was joined by its members which are mostly Canada’s leading companies in ASEAN.

These companies include the Bank of Nova Scotia, Manulife, Bank of Montreal, SNC-Lavalin, Export Development Canada, and CN Rail. Together with the CABC, their presence at the dialogue has demonstrated the immense support the Canadian private sector holds for deeper ASEAN-Canada trade.

At the 7th AEM-Canada Consultations, the Ministers welcomed the expanding trade and investment ties between ASEAN and Canada, noting that total merchandise trade was nearly USD 18 billion in 2017, an increase of 10 per cent from the previous year. This ranked Canada as the ninth largest merchandise trading partner of ASEAN. Meanwhile, the stock of Canadian Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in ASEAN amounted to USD 9.4 billion in 2017.

The Ministers also expressed their appreciation for Canada’s ongoing support to ASEAN’s efforts to promote inclusive and innovation-led growth through technical assistance.

The Ministers commended the Council for its advocacy and contribution to promoting ASEAN-Canada trade and investment, and welcomed the successful convening of the 4th Canada-ASEAN Business Forum in Singapore on 21–22 March 2018.