Post-Event Report – “The Canada Advantage” Report Launch Event
On August 23, 2018, the Canada-ASEAN Business Council (CABC) hosted “The Canada Advantage” report launch event at the NUSS Suntec City Guild House, Singapore, at 8:30am to 11:00am. The event gathered about 40 government officials from the governments of Canada and ASEAN, business leaders, and academics.
“The Canada Advantage” report is a collaborative publication by the CABC, the University of British Columbia (UBC), and the National University of Singapore (NUS), with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
To start the launch event, Mr. Gregory Ross, Executive Director of the CABC, gave his opening remarks by thanking patron members of the CABC as well as AirAsia for sponsoring the breakfast event.
Ms. Aireen Omar, Deputy Group CEO (Digital, Transformation, Corporate Services) of AirAsia then gave her sponsor remarks, highlighting the growth potentials of ASEAN and its young population and growing middle class. She pointed out that open skies agreement between Canada and ASEAN would improve connectivity and encourage people flow.
The event then moved on to an engaging fireside chat with Ms. Omar and Mr. Alexandre Prevost, Vice President and General Manager – Asia Pacific of CAE Inc. Moderated by Mr. Tommy Koh from the UBC, Ms. Omar and Mr. Prevost spoke about the successful and win-win partnership between AirAsia and CAE.
Commenting on how a potential ASEAN-Canada Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) would impact the aviation sector, Ms. Omar believed that local economies and the ASEAN region as a whole would benefit from open skies agreement between Canada through trade facilitation. Mr. Prevost echoed this view and stated that the Montreal-based company CAE Inc. is in favour of free trade agreements and see liberal trade and open markets as strong foundation of growth. He also pointed out that 93% of the company’s revenue is generated outside of Canada.
The research team behind “The Canada Advantage” report then took the stage to launch the report. In his remarks, Dr. Kai Ostwald from the UBC, said closer Canada-ASEAN exchange goes beyond economic benefits. Instead, the closer ties would also foster people-to-people exchange. Prof. Alexander Capri from the NUS Business School also made a comment that amidst geo-economic uncertainties, “Canada, more than ever, is an essential country in the world stage”.
Ms. Clare Kim and Mr. Tommy Koh from the UBC presented the key findings of “The Canada Advantage” report. The report seeks to address how can ASEAN-based companies can benefit from the Canada trade opportunity, and specifically from the implementation of an ASEAN-Canada FTA.
The research builds on previous research in prior CABC joint reports: “The ASEAN Advantage” (2017) highlighted compelling reasons for Canada-based companies to seek opportunities in ASEAN, while the “Canada-ASEAN Business Outlook Survey” (2016) reviewed the perspectives of the firms with business interests related to both ASEAN and Canada.
The report shows that existing Canada-ASEAN ties are expanding in term of Canada’s development assistance to the region and Canada’s imports from the ASEAN.
Some of the key research findings are that:
- Canada offers strategic benefits in Research and Development with access to higher education collaborations and skilled labour
- Canada represents a launch pad for greater Market Access to North American and global markets with the benefit of a strong brand.
- Companies benefit from Canada’s Friendly Business Environment which increases the ease of conducting business in Canada.
The research team also conducted structured interviews with six ASEAN companies, in both Goods & Manufacturing and Services sectors, on their current or intended engagements with Canada. All companies were positive on ACFTA and FTAs in general. They shared preference for ACFTA to plug gaps in the CPTPP and existing FTAs such as a focus on SMEs, labour mobility, flexible industry-informed standards. Companies also shared anticipation that closer ASEAN-Canada engagements as a result of ACFTA will have complementary effects on other agreements.
The launch event then featured a high-level panel discussion on a potential ACFTA. On the panel were:
- E. Lynn McDonald, High Commission of Canada to Singapore, Government of Canada
- Aireen Omar– Deputy Group CEO (Digital, Transformation, Corporate Services) – AirAsia
- Wayne Farmer– President – Canada-ASEAN Business Council
- Kai Ostwald– Director, Centre for Southeast Asia Research – University of British Columbia
- Alexander Capri– Professor – National University of Singapore Business School
Moderated by Mr. Greg Ross, the panel discussed how Canada can accelerate an FTA negotiations with the ASEAN as the region is being courted by multiple partners, including the EU and RCEP. While panelists shared that the Feasibility Study on the ACFTA showed positive results of the potential benefits of an ACFTA, they also looked into some of the practical challenges in bringing an ACFTA into fruition, including Canada’s preoccupation with other major trade agreements such as NAFTA, resource constraints, etc.