Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau PC MP recently concluded his visit to South East Asia including Singapore for the ASEAN Summit and Papua New Guinea for the APEC meetings. In line with Canada’s trade diversification agenda, Trudeau’s Asia trip, accompanied by Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr PC MP, aimed to forge closer trade ties with  ASEAN and Asia-Pacific regions.

On November 13th, the CABC was privileged to host the prime minister and Minister Carr for a CABC-CanCham Trade Dialogue with leaders from the Canadian business community in Singapore.

This is the first time the CABC, together with its members, have met with a Prime Minister and we truly appreciate the opportunity to share our insights on the promotion of Canada’s trade diversification opportunity with ASEAN.

Here are the major takeaways from our meeting:

1. ASEAN is an important partner for Canada’s trade diversification

The Government of Canada reiterated that ASEAN is a key market for Canada’s trade diversification policy. Given ASEAN’s population of over 660 million and its strong growth rates, the region presents significant economic opportunities for Canadian businesses.

At the same time, Canada is an extremely strong and trusted brand in this region. Other than ASEAN’s general affinity for Canada, this trust also translates to tangible opportunities for ASEAN businesses.

2. Canada and ASEAN are ready for increased economic partnership

As two trade-dependent regions, Canada and ASEAN are well positioned for increased economic partnership. Beyond trade, ASEAN ‘s guiding principles align closely with Canada’s shared progressive values.

However, there is also enormous competition for ASEAN’s attention. Canada should build on its goodwill and relationship with ASEAN to push for the start of formal FTA negotiations in  2019.

3. Canada seeks to deepen trade ties with the ASEAN beyond the CPTPP

Canada has made good process in building closer trade ties with ASEAN, particularly with its recent ratification of the CPTPP.

To further deepen the trade ties, the CABC supports Canada in pursuing an ASEAN-Canada FTA which would build on the great accomplishment of the ratification of the CPTPP and provide access to Canada for the large non-CPTPP members of ASEAN, particularly Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

4. Innovation is a priority for Canada and a core strength in its engagement with ASEAN

As Prime Minister Trudeau pointed out, the world is moving faster than it ever has, and yet the world will never again change at a slow a pace as it is right now. As such, Canada should continue to help build and provide solutions for the challenges that a changing world presents, and to dive in to meet these challenges.

ASEAN is open to experiment and adopt new technologies in its push for economic prosperity. As such, Canada can leverage its established strengths in showing start-ups how to grow quickly, in South East Asia.

While Singapore is an ideal entry point for Canadian businesses into the region, with the Singapore Government’s regular testing and implementation of new technologies in partnership with the private sector, Canada should also endeavour to facilitate accelerated introduction of advanced technology from the region into Canada.

Finally, the CABC would like to express gratitude and thank CABC Patron Members, the Prime Minister’s office, the Minister of Trade’s office, Global Affairs Canada and CanCham Singapore in facilitating this high-level trade dialogue. The CABC will continue to serve as an aggregated voice for Canadian businesses and business chambers in the ASEAN region.

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