Trudeau’s Asia Tour Shows IPS in Action

On September 5, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began his six-day tour across Asia. Stopping first in Jakarta, Trudeau met Indonesian President Joko Widodo and participated in the ASEAN Summit. During the summit, ASEAN members and Canada adopted the ASEAN-Canada Strategic Partnership, which will see both sides “collaborate in strategic areas of mutual interest.”

Trudeau proceeded to Singapore, meeting with key business leaders to promote strategic investments in agri-food, clean technology, and more. Today, he meets with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, before ending his trip in New Delhi, where he will attend the G20 Leaders’ Meeting.

Canada ratcheting up engagement in Indonesia

Delivering on its 2022 Indo-Pacific Strategy, Trudeau, in his bilateral meeting with Widodo, announced the opening of an export development office in Jakarta and the appointment of Canada’s first Indo-Pacific Trade Representative, Paul Thoppil, former Assistant Deputy Minister at Global Affairs Canada. Trudeau also pledged C$10 million to the Indonesian government for the prevention of biological threats, and loans of C$100 million for the country’s green transition.

Trudeau said he expects a free trade agreement between the two countries to be signed within 12 months. Widodo, at the summit, called Canada an anchor of peace and stability in a geopolitically tumultuous region.

Progressing with ASEAN, pausing with India

Criticized as having an episodic presence in Southeast Asia, Canada's opening of a trade office in Jakarta, the new ASEAN strategic partnership, and continued negotiations on a Canada-ASEAN trade agreement are examples of Canada firmly rooting itself in the region.

This contrasts with Canada’s relationship with India. At the G20 meeting, Trudeau is expected to push for Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine — a topic that the 2023 G20 chair, India, is reluctant to discuss. Trade talks between Canada and India recently came to a pause, with Ottawa requesting the two sides take stock of negotiations.

Critics see disagreements over India’s non-intervention in Ukraine, Sikh separatism, and ethnic violence in Manipur potentially stalling the trade deal, among other irritants.