A gate through which people and goods pass; an open (or a closed) door; the path to new opportunities; a point of exchange. These are all possible synonyms depicting the physical nature of a gateway. Yet, the development of an Asia Pacific Gateway Strategy cannot solely be restricted to a question of physical access or infrastructure. People or goods passing through a gateway also imply issues of immigration, education, finance, culture, and knowledge, to name a few. Although Canadians have various visions of an Asia Pacific Gateway, they generally recognize its interdependent nature and the need for a holistic and coordinated approach.
At the local or municipal level, the Asia Pacific Gateway strategy means, first and foremost, focusing on the very physicality of the concept. In order to establish Vancouver as the Gateway of choice in North America, the city must ensure that it offers the best environment and infrastructure to shippers, carriers and travelers. In other words, Vancouver has to be the most modern and cost-effective gate linking Asia to North America.
However, municipal authorities recognize the potential implications of the strategy on their communities. Growing trade can generate more pollution with more traffic through airports, ports, railways and on roads. The economic development of the city is likely to be accompanied by urban congestion and social inequalities. These changes need to be carefully examined and mitigated if the Gateway is to succeed and if the authorities are to rally the support of the community for the initiative. The success of the Pacific Gateway strategy at the local level rests on the community's ability to develop a sustainable and innovative Gateway that will reconcile the needs of the community and the needs of Asia Pacific trade.
From the provincial perspective, the Gateway strategy means increasing British Columbia's commercial and cultural links with Asia, but also building on the province's strong historical ties with the region. However, the development of BC as a Gateway is not an irreversible or inevitable process. The province will need to stand out from its West Coast competitors (such as Washington and California) who are also pursuing aggressive Asia strategies. Yet, as it reinforces its position as Canada's Gateway to Asia, the province will encounter the same problems - although on a different scale - that municipal authorities will face: growing population, urban congestion, trans-border issues, etc. The strategy, at the provincial level, will have to address these issues with a coordinated approach in order to ensure the sustainable development and the prosperity of BC.
At the national level, the Asia Pacific Gateway strategy represents a comprehensive policy to cope with the rise of China - and Asia in general - and its implications for Canada's place in the world and in the Asia Pacific region. The strategy goes far beyond simply upgrading infrastructure. It touches on issues ranging from immigration policy to education and from public security to culture. It means preparing the country and its youth to take up the challenges posed by the rise of Asia in a way that protects Canada's national interests.
However, the Pacific Gateway strategy does not rest on a zero-sum mentality. Although the economic development of Asian nations represents fiercer competition for Canada, it also represents greater opportunities for trade, education, and cultural exchange. For Canada, the Gateway should be viewed as a relationship from which both Canada and Asia can benefit.
From a national perspective, the crucial challenge for the Gateway is to implement coordinated policies that will offer a balance between facilitating the effective and rapid flow of goods, people and ideas and preserving national security, sovereignty and sustainability. The Canadian government has to find ways to foster cultural, commercial and intellectual exchanges between Canada and Asian nations while taking into account global issues, such as organized crime, terrorism, environmental problems and infectious diseases.
In the end, coordinated efforts and policies between all levels of governments will play a crucial role in ensuring the success of the Asia Pacific Gateway Strategy. Consistent policies and a simplification of bureaucratic practices will allow the private sector to thrive, Canadian students to acquire valuable international experience and language training, and Canadian and Asian cultures to gain from increased exchanges and mutual awareness. The Asia Pacific Gateway strategy must be as inclusive as possible and engage all the stakeholders in the process. Canadians must think big and act quickly, but also act in coordination with each other!