On September 1 2018, the Canada-ASEAN Business Council held an advocacy roundtable with new Minister for International Trade Diversification, the Honourable Jim Carr.

The CABC’s Executive Committee engaged in a lively and productive discussion with the Minister, over a buffet lunch at the Shangri-La Hotel. The meeting was sponsored by TD Bank and CN Rail, and enabled with the support of the CanCham Singapore.

Minister Carr opened the meeting with an acknowledgment that Canada’s trading future relies on a diversification of its export markets, and emphasized the appreciation held around the world for Canadian values. The floor was then turned to the CABC Executive Committee to respond to the question of “how can Canada help your business in the region?”.

Major points discussed at the meeting included:

  • What should Canadian firms consider when looking at entering countries with higher levels of political risk, such as Myanmar.
  • A lack of strong institutions in ASEAN means that capacity building initiatives will improve the opportunities for Canadian firms to invest confidently in the region.
  • ASEAN currently has a massive appetite for technology adoption. Through increasing its capacity to export technology, Canada can be a strong player in the growth of ASEAN’s knowledge economy (artificial intelligence as one example). This is bolstered through its unique perception as a safe trading partner without the political challenges associated with other larger economies.
  • Increased support for CABC via funding opportunities such as the GOA could facilitate greater awareness of the ASEAN opportunities for Canada’s SMEs trading abroad.
  • Canada’s pension funds have been playing an increasingly active role in ASEAN, and that there is growing demand for Canadian pension fund capital in the region.
  • ASEAN is less risky of a market than it is often made out to be, and that new Canadian businesses and must be made aware of this opportunity. While small business will often follow in the footsteps of larger players, Canada’s SME champions can help lead the way.
  • A more consistent presence from the Canadian Government in the region would help clarify its intended level of engagement.
  • A major issue for Canadian businesses trading with Asia Pacific is not a lack of awareness but rather a lack of market access – for example, there is a major lost opportunity through lack of oil pipelines to the West Coast.

The CABC thanks Minister Carr and his team for taking the time to build a relationship with our Members and looks forward to continuing to work closely with him as a key partner in the CABC’s mission to deepen Canada’s trade ties with ASEAN.