Asia Matters More to Canadians; Divided Views About Best Path Forward, Finds APF Canada National Opinion Poll

Ottawa, ON – April 23, 2012 – Canadians are more aware than ever of the importance of Asia to our economic future. However, there is less consensus – and in some provinces, rising concern – about how best to engage with Asia. That is among the key findings in a new poll released today by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada, www.asiapacific.ca).

Mr. Yuen Pau Woo, President and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, noted ‘a slow shift in Canadian mental maps is starting to position Canada as part of the Asia Pacific region. This comes, in part, as more Canadians accept the reality of a global economic shift towards Asia and the opportunities that it can present for Canada.”

The number of Canadians who identified Canada as part of the Asia Pacific region rose a statistically significant three points, from 26% in 2011 to 29% in 2012. Moreover, fully half of Canadians saw the growing economic power of China as more of an opportunity than a threat, up a substantial seven points in the past 12 months.

But while more Canadians advocate for greater diversification of Canada’s trade (85%) and support an urgent push for a Canadian response to Asia’s rising demand for resources (61%), many remain guarded about pursuing free trade agreements with Asia’s emerging economies or allowing foreign ownership of Canadian companies or natural resources.

Despite 55% agreeing that political and economic relations with Asia should be Canada’s top foreign policy priority, there remain lingering hesitations as to how Canadians should actually engage with countries in the region to capitalize on the opportunities for Canada. Nearly 38% expressed opposition when asked whether Canada should pursue free trade agreements with China, India and South Korea. Fewer than one-in-five Canadians would be in favour of state-controlled companies from China and India buying a controlling stake in a major Canadian company. And on energy matters, some 57% disagree with the notion that the economic benefits of Asia’s investments in Canada’s energy sector outweigh concerns about foreign ownership of natural resources.

“Canadians continue to express doubts about engaging more deeply with Asia. While we need to proceed wisely and cautiously on sensitive matters that affect Canadian interests, there should be no mistaking the incredible pace of change in Asia and hence the need to act with urgency and resolve,” said Mr. Yuen Pau Woo.

There were noticeable differences in the views of Canadians from various regions viewed on deeper engagement with Asia. Respondents from British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Northern Territories displayed the strongest feelings of favorability to Asian countries. Nearly two-thirds of Albertans and 60% of Quebecers and British Columbians are in favor of making economic and political relations with Asia Canada’s top foreign policy priority. Both Alberta and Quebec felt more warmly towards China, Southeast Asia and South Korea compared to findings from previous years. In contrast, respondents from Ontario appeared more skeptical of the importance that Asian economies played towards Canada’s economic well-being. They attributed lower importance to Asian countries than in the past two years and were most likely to oppose free trade agreements with China (44%), India (43%), and South Korea (44%).

The survey was conducted online on behalf of APF Canada by Angus Reid Public Opinion between February 21 and 29, 2012. In all, 3,129 Canadians who are Angus Reid Forum panelists participated in the survey resulting in a margin of error of +/-1.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada.

To read the full 2012 National Opinion Poll of Canadian Views on Asia, follow this link: http://www.asiapacific.ca/surveys/national-opinion-polls/2012-national-opinion-poll-canadian-views-asia

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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.

For additional information, please contact:

Trang Nguyen
Communications Manager
Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
Phone: (604) 323-6781
E-mail: trang.nguyen@asiapacific.ca

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