A recent post on the website of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada reported on the release of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. The strategy identifies the Indo-Pacific as the world’s most dynamic region, and argues that Canada’s national interests necessitate a whole-of-society, comprehensive approach to it. The foundation asked for my preliminary thoughts on the strategy. Here they are:
The Indo-Pacific Strategy marks a milestone in Canadian foreign policy by ratcheting up the priority of Asia and the Pacific. A key strength is its comprehensive approach, weaving together Canadian interests across several critical domains. The strategy strongly endorses the rules-based international order and highlights the importance of partnerships, such as continuing co-operation with Japan on development through the Asian Development Bank. This makes sense, but Canada should also work more closely with other bank shareholders to harness the institution’s great capacity to mobilize substantial funding for infrastructure.
The strategy states that Canada will give particular attention to building capacity to engage with several countries, including in Southeast Asia. This is a sensible approach, given that ASEAN will soon become the world’s fourth largest economy and boasts great geopolitical importance. Through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and an anticipated Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement, Canadian businesses can increasingly use ASEAN as a platform to enter the enormous Chinese market.
Debate will rage about whether the right notes have been struck vis-à-vis China, which the strategy describes as a “disruptive power” that disregards international rules. Yet the strategy also recognizes that involvement of the Asian giant is indispensable to solving critical global challenges. Hawkish elements of the strategy are being welcomed in Washington, but could further complicate Ottawa’s sour relations with China.
The real measure of the strategy’s success will be effective implementation and co-ordination with other federal initiatives and policies (like the Feminist International Assistance Policy). Canada’s public and private sectors have increasingly targeted Asia for bilateral trade and direct investment…