Is Canada's Enthusiasm for Asia a Passing Fad?
With much of the industrialized west mired in sluggish growth or flirting with a double-dip recession, Canadian interest in Asia has reached a fresh high. Chinese demand in the last four years saved Canada from a more severe downturn, and it is the prospect of sustained Chinese demand that is fueling much of the current interest in “diversification”. What was once dismissed as an unrealistic throwback to “third way” thinking is now part of the conventional wisdom in government and business circles.
It is unfortunate that much of the impetus for diversification is based on pessimism about the US economy or spite over US government actions (to wit, the Keystone XL pipeline). The US economy is facing major structural challenges, but no one should doubt the regenerative power of American capitalism and its capacity for innovation. When the US economy rebounds, will the current enthusiasm for Asia turn out to be a passing fad?
The importance of Asia for Canada must be seen in terms that go well beyond the idea of Asian economies merely as alternatives to the US and the EU. The rise of Asia is about a power shift on the global stage that goes beyond purchasing power. Adjusting to the new global reality will require a sea change in Canadian attitudes on our place in the world. On this measure,our latest National Opinion Poll suggests that there is much work left to be done.
There are promising signs, however, that the current Asia focus of governments and industry is more than an infatuation. On the heels of announcing enhanced diplomatic relations with Myanmar, Foreign Minister John Baird attended the ASEAN Regional Forum recently, underscoring his commitment to stronger ties with Southeast Asian countries and the wider East Asia region. Trade Minister Ed Fast will lead a mission to Myanmar next month, Premiers announced their plans for a China visit in September, and the Prime Minister is scheduled to be in India before the end of the year. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives – representing the country’s largest companies – has produced a series of papers on the importance of Asia for Canada, culminating in a conference on ‘Canada in the Pacific Century’ in late September. APF Canada is pleased to be a partner in the conference, and to include it as part of the National Conversation on Asia.