At an international summit of Asian countries, the Prime Minister of Indonesia got a custom Team Canada basketball jersey, and Canada got a shiny new foreign partnership.
What happened: Canada and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—an economic bloc of ten Indo-Pacific countries, including Indonesia and Singapore—signed a Strategic Partnership, a mostly symbolic gesture that recognizes increased cooperation.
- This foreign relations equivalent of a friendship bracelet comes after Canada rolled out its Indo-Pacific Strategy last year as it tries to make in-roads in the region.
Why it matters: The friendship comes with (economic) benefits and bodes well for a future free trade agreement (FTA), which both sides want to ratify by 2025. An FTA with ASEAN would be a major win, lifting trade roadblocks to one of the biggest blocs in the Indo-Pacific; Canada’s second-largest export market and the world’s fastest-growing economic region.
Currently, Canada is a major food supplier to ASEAN nations but sees other areas for economic opportunity—including assisting the bloc in its green energy transition.
Canada would also gain some clout in the region over the likes of the US and EU, who don’t have trade deals in place despite being strategic partners.
Bottom line: Trade activity between Canada and ASEAN already grew 18% in 2021 and 28.8% in 2022. By taking their friendship to the next level, that could grow even more.—QH