Canada, ASEAN Become Strategic Partners as Trade Pact Talks Continue

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Jakarta. ASEAN on Wednesday officially acceded a strategic partnership status to Canada as both sides try to strike a free trade deal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is currently in Jakarta for a summit with the Southeast Asian leaders. Canada has been a dialogue partner to ASEAN since 1977. In other words, they have been working together on political and security issues, as well as economic interests, among others.

In Nov. 2022, Canada and ASEAN pledged to elevate the existing ties into a strategic partnership, which has finally come into existence. According to a joint leaders’ statement on the relations upgrade, ASEAN and Canada will closely collaborate in “strategic areas of mutual interest”.

“Today, ASEAN-Canada relations are entering a new phase, namely as strategic partners. Welcome to the ASEAN family, Prime Minister Trudeau. We hope this can bring more benefits to our people and the region,” President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said at the ASEAN-Canada Summit at the Jakarta Convention Center on Wednesday.

“Canada is ASEAN’s strategic partner in food security, industrial downstream program, as well as an open and fair trade in the region,” Jokowi said.

ASEAN and Canada are currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the negotiations already taking place since 2021. Leaders aim to conclude the talks for the ASEAN-Canada Free Trade Agreement (ACAFTA) by 2025. 

Canadian government statistics show that ASEAN member economies as a group were Canada’s fourth-largest merchandise trading partner in 2021. The merchandise trade hit $40.7 billion the following year. 

“Last year, Canadian exports from and imports to ASEAN increased by 29 percent from the year prior. That’s great, but we need to do even more. In the nearer term, Canada looks forward to concluding the ACAFTA,” Trudeau told the Southeast Asian leaders.

“In the longer term, Canada would very much like to join ASEAN-led mechanisms such as the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus [ADMM-Plus],” he said.

The ADMM-Plus encompasses the ASEAN members and its dialogue partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the US. As the name suggests, the talks focus on defense and security cooperation. The East Asia Summit is a regional forum with the same set of participating countries, all accounting for 60.4 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022.

Canada, ASEAN Become Strategic Partners as Trade Pact Talks Continue
President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo shakes hands with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shortly after the ASEAN-Canada Summit in Jakarta on September 6, 2023. (Antara Photo/ASEAN Summit Media Center)

Source: Jakarta Globe