APF Canada Launches National Conversation on Asia; Appeals to Leaders to Develop Coherent Asia Strategy to Ensure Canada’s Future Prosperity

Toronto, ON – April 14, 2011 – The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada announced the launch of a Canada-wide initiative called The National Conversation on Asia (NCA) at a press conference today in Toronto. The initiative responds to growing unease expressed by Canadians about the rise of Asia and Canada’s relations with the region.  Without clear direction on how the country should engage with Asian countries - on political, economic, and social issues – Canada risks being left behind in an increasingly Asia-centric world.

The NCA is a call to action, supported by the private sector and non-governmental organizations across the country, aimed at helping Canadians develop a fuller appreciation of the rise of Asia and its implications for Canada.  The project seeks to inspire Asia initiatives that are relevant to the interests of business and civil society groups across Canada, and to create the conditions for strategic and long-term policy development on the part of the federal and provincial governments.

“Asia matters to Canada regardless of what Canadians think about Asia. A collective failure to think about the implications of Asia’s rise, however, will leave Canada ill-prepared and disadvantaged compared to other countries,” said Yuen Pau Woo, president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.  “The National Conversation on Asia is an effort to equip Canadians for the major geopolitical shifts that are underway, and to embed the Asia Pacific region as part of Canadian mental maps.”

In the 2011 national opinion poll (see separate press release) published today by APF Canada, two-thirds (66%) of Canadians think the influence of China will surpass the US in 10 years, while one-third (32%) believe the same for India. Already, important national debates are taking place about Asian investment in Canada, the export of energy to Asian countries, and the internationalization of Canadian schools through overseas campuses, student recruitment and institutional partnerships – especially in Asia.

 “Canadians recognize that a global power shift towards Asia is underway and that Canada will be affected,” said Mr. Woo, “but many are concerned about the potential impact on their jobs and on the values that define Canada. In addressing these legitimate concerns, we need to have a frank conversation about Canada’s place in the world and how our Asia Pacific ties can contribute to economic, social, and environmental goals.”

Together with events in Montreal (April 13) and Vancouver (April 20), today’s launch will kick off a set of activities nationwide, including the creation of a hub for online Canada-Asia content, public lectures, community outreach and discussion forums, research and analysis, task forces, and networking events. 

Two unique features of the NCA include the Futures Group on Asia and the Emerging Voices on Asia. The Futures Group is composed of over 30 prominent Canadians from all parts of the country who will provide thought leadership and strategic advice on Canada-Asia issues.  The group is co-chaired by Hon. David Emerson, Canada’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Joseph Caron, Canada’s former Ambassador to China and Japan, and former High Commissioner to India.

The Emerging Voices on Asia is part of the NCA’s emphasis on young Canadians and the next generation of Canada-Asia leaders. Using the tools of social media, the program will connect with and engage young Canadians to share their Asia experiences, addressing themes such as social change, the environment, human rights, culture, and politics.

“We want to help Canadians develop innovative ideas and projects that will help them develop a fuller appreciation for the rise of Asia,” said Mr. Caron. “Canada’s engagement with the region and with the world can only go so far as the Canadian public demands.  If we, as a nation, want to rebuild our status on the world stage, this conversation is a necessary starting point. Canada has great potential to strengthen its relationship with a region that will only grow in importance for Canada’s future prosperity.”

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About APF Canada
The Asia Pacific Foundation is an independent resource for Canadians on contemporary Asia and Canada-Asia relations. As a national not-for-profit organization established by an Act of the Federal Parliament in 1984, the Foundation brings together people and knowledge to provide the most current and comprehensive research, analysis and information on Asia and on Canada's transpacific relations.

About the National Conversation on Asia

The National Conversation on Asia is a Canada-wide initiative to get Canadians thinking, talking and acting on Canada-Asia issues.  It includes a public education and policy development focus.  This initiative is generously supported in part by our Founding Partners: Teck Resources Ltd., Bombardier Inc., Shell Canada, and Manulife Financial; Founding Sponsor: HSBC Bank Canada and Port Metro Vancouver; and Founding Supporters: Port of Halifax, Fiera Sceptre, Vancouver Airport Authority, and Deloitte.

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