25th Anniversary - 2
And yet Canada still lags far behind its American, Australian and even in some areas European competitors in fully engaging its people and its businesses in Asian opportunities. The next 25 years should focus on correcting that imbalance. That will take a renewed commitment by those most directly involved and by the Canadian government recognizing that its generosity in funding that commitment still falls far behind that of its competitors.
The Foundation is still much needed in the years ahead.
Paul Evans, Co-CEO, 2005 -2008
What have been the biggest changes in Canada’s relationship with Asia in the past 25 years? My vote is for three.
The first is the human flows, seen principally in Asian migration to Canada, tourism, business travel and study abroad. In recent years the “immigration” story has become the “trans-national migration” story with accelerated two-way flows of mobile people who live in more than one space, and who choose locations based on their stages of life, family and economic interests. The number and diversity of Canadians living in Asia will increase even further as Asian economies strengthen. Just as Latin American migration has changed the face of America, trans-Pacific migration is changing the face and future of Canada.
The second is economic integration. For almost all Canadians, Asia is no longer over there: it is here, a daily presence in our lives and livelihood. It is seen in the products we buy, what we produce, our mortgage rates, and what we pay at the pumps. The decisions of Asian governments, firms and consumers matter directly to Canadian well-being. Programs like the Asia Pacific Gateway are not just instruments for expanding two-way trade but for deeper integration via global value chains. We don’t sell to Asian markets: we are part of them.
The third is geo-politics. Through the ending of the Cold War and a unipolar moment two decades long, Asia was important to the global balance of power but not determinant. This is changing, and fast. America may not be declining but Asia is certainly rising. 25 years ago Asia was primarily the location of hotspots. While many of these hotspots remain, Asia today is a global presence. Is there any global issue ranging from climate change and non-proliferation through to human security in Darfur where the road to solutions does not run through Asian capitals? In institutional terms, a strong Asia is not just a rule taker but a rule maker.
Has the Foundation kept ahead of these changes? Generally, yes and on some issues like the Gateway economy, trans-national migration, and re-jigging multilateral institutions, spectacularly so. Has the Foundation been able to help Canadians understand these changes and make the necessary adjustments in attitudes and policies? A quarter century of effort has had only modest and intermittent results. The good news is that most Canadians sense the growing importance of Asia even as they are not sure how to respond. The sad news is that our thinking classes have failed to provide the leadership for us to seize our trans-Pacific future.
The Foundation’s task couldn’t be clearer.