Canada committed to deepening ties with ASEAN

James Kon

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his leader keynote address at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) 2021 yesterday, congratulated His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Brunei Darussalam on a successful Chairmanship of ASEAN, in a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said, “The past year and a half have been tough for our people, for our businesses, and for our economies. And trade will be crucial to our recovery and to building a better future for all of our countries.”

But for that to happen, he said “we must care about how we trade, what we trade, and with whom we trade. And we must also care about who trades.

“Now more than ever, we must also promote a strong, open, rules-based trading system under which we may all prosper. “We can only do that if we work together. That’s why we’re here today. The pandemic has not been easy and it has shown us how interconnected our countries and our economies are. It has highlighted what we already knew: we are stronger together. That’s why we cannot turn inward while we rebuild. It is why we cannot stop trading. And it is why we cannot withdraw from multilateral cooperation”.

He added, “Right now, we are not only dealing with a global health crisis, we’re also dealing with a global economic crisis. We have to deal with both. And Canada is committed to continuing its collaboration with international partners to end this pandemic and prepare for future health emergencies. That includes the USD3.5 million commitment we made this past January to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund.

“As we finish the fight against COVID-19, deepening our ties with ASEAN economies and diversifying trade across the Asia-Pacific will play a crucial role in our recovery. A strong Canada-ASEAN relationship is a clear win-win for all of our businesses and all of our people. That’s why we are working hard to implement a four-year action plan in support of the Joint Declaration on ASEAN-Canada Enhanced Partnership. Why we’re making sure businesses of all sizes can reap the rewards of a strong Trans-Pacific Partnership, including through our 10 year ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for small medium enterprises (SMEs). And why we are continuing to explore ways to take our relationship to the next level, including through a possible free trade agreement.”

Such an agreement, he said, “would promote growth in the technology, digital commerce, advanced manufacturing, agriculture and agri-food, and professional services sectors. It would be a game-changer for many of our hardworking companies and entrepreneurs, helping them make connections and build business relationships around the world. It would create jobs for the middle class. It would help reduce barriers to trade and provide investors with greater clarity and confidence to expand their presence in other countries’ markets. And it would help protect our supply chains from the uncertainties of the global pandemic.

“Canada and ASEAN member countries will be more prosperous if we continue to work together. We will create a better future for our people and our countries. So let’s continue to move our relationship forward. Let’s make sure the benefits of trade are felt by everyone. And let’s come out of this pandemic stronger than ever.”