Friday, August 27, 2010

Canada Can’t Ignore ASEAN Region


Already seen as a laggard in China and India, Canada can ill afford to miss out on the economic boom in Southeast Asia

Canada has dragged its heels developing trade with southeast Asian nations, and a scathing report says that gaffe has left us on the margins while other countries organize lucrative pacts in one of the most important economic regions in the world. The report, released today by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, a Vancouver-based think-tank that assesses Canada’s relations with Asia, says Canada’s lack of a “consistent and sustained policy” towards the region was ill-advised and now puts us behind economic forces such as India, China and the US in trying to organize trade with those countries.

The region, commonly known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. Individually, these nations have little economic clout, but together they represent a market of 600 million people with a burgeoning middle class.

The association’s statistics-gathering agency ASEANStats has GDP pegged at US$1.5 trillion and 2008 trade of nearly US$1.9 trillion. If this were one country, it would represent the world’s 10th largest economy.

The report criticizes Canada for failing to sign free-trade agreements with any of these countries while New Zealand and Australia, India and South Korea already have agreements and the U.S. has begun negotiating.

Read more here and click here to view the report.