Trudeau announces financial commitments at ASEAN summit

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday unveiled a series of financial commitments aimed at strengthening economic and educational ties with Southeast Asia, a region that has been neglected in recent years. decades.

“It’s a generational shift,” Trudeau told leaders gathered in Phnom Penh for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

“I am announcing concrete investments that demonstrate the importance of our commitment to this relationship,” he added before listing the list of measures taken which will total $333 million.

Mr. Trudeau delivered a speech at the ASEAN-Canada Memorial Summit celebrating 45 years of relations between Canada and these Southeast Asian countries.

These ten countries had come together to conclude a free trade agreement with Canada.

This bloc and Canada want to distance themselves from China because of disagreements on a host of issues ranging from human rights to intellectual property.

“There are no surprises. The cards are on the table. Our objective is to be present in the region”, declared the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, Mélanie Joly.

Mr. Trudeau announced a series of financial commitments over five years.

The government will notably invest $133 million for the establishment of so-called feminist international aid, a quarter of which will be reserved for Canadian organizations in the region.

Canada will create a new $84.3 million ocean pool fund to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It will spend $40 million, including for Canadian civil society and private sector engagement in the region and to support research in support of policy development.

A sum of $24 million is planned to establish a Canadian Trade Gateway. An identical amount will be devoted to the Asia-Pacific Foundation to establish a physical presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Other sums are reserved for educational and commercial exchanges.

Trudeau’s cabinet announced that ASEAN had granted Canada Comprehensive Strategic Partner status, the highest recognition for a non-member country. The United States and India have also obtained this status. So far, only Australia and China have received this recognition.

ASEAN is Canada’s sixth largest trading partner.

The majority of ASEAN’s population is under the age of 30, a demographic that is creating new economic opportunities in the region. The middle class is growing in Indonesia and Thailand. Some companies have already started relocating jobs to Vietnam and the Philippines, elated by the opportunity to exploit cheap labor.

Mr. Trudeau also met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“Our goal is to be more present in the region,” she said. She recalled that the Liberal government had opened embassies in Africa which had been closed by the previous Conservative government.

Wayne Farmer, President of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council, laments that Canada is lagging behind the United States, Australia, Britain and France in the region.

“It is the most remote region of Canada. It’s even further than Africa, it’s even further than northern Asia and it’s even further than Europe. It’s not so surprising that we’re latecomers, he says. But in today’s world, with communications and transportation, that’s no longer an excuse.”

Jeffrey Reeves, research director of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, says the West is hurting for not helping emerging countries make COVID-19 vaccines.

“China has supplied vaccines to the majority of Asian countries while the West has kept the supply for itself and prevented technology transfers, he says. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t go unnoticed and that you don’t forget.”

Stéphanie Martel, a professor of international relations at Queen’s University, believes that Canada could play a role in building consensus on various topics. Canada could improve its relationship by focusing on the individual experiences of each Southeast Asian country rather than pretending they are the grip of China or the United States.

Note to readers: In the previous version of this text, The Canadian Press erroneously stated that the Canadian Embassy in Cambodia was closed. This is not the case.


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