Municipal and provincial twinning relationships are not a new facet of Canadian foreign relations, yet their contributions to Canada’s relations in the Indo-Pacific have been sorely understudied and underutilized. Over half of Canada’s twinning relationships, which totalled around 270 at their peak, are already with counterparts in the Indo-Pacific. However, the rate at which subnational jurisdictions have inked new agreements has greatly declined since the 1980s and 1990s. Meanwhile, Indo-Pacific nations have not only continued to expand their twinning relations but have even revamped and enshrined their approaches to twinning as part of their foreign policy strategy. This contrast between Canada and Indo-Pacific nations highlights opportunities for Canada to diversify its Indo-Pacific relations and raises important questions about the role of municipalities and provinces in Canadian foreign policy, which has traditionally been reserved for the federal government.
Our Senior Program Manager, Engaging Asia, Scott Harrison, and Junior Research Scholar, Quinton Huang appear as panellists at this symposium. Their presentation explores different approaches to subnational twinning across the Indo-Pacific and compares them with Canadian strategies thus far. Drawing on our APF Canada dataset of twinning relationships between Canada and five Indo-Pacific countries (Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea), we highlight trends in Canadian twinning agreements with these countries and identify “clusters” of twinning activity. Using several of these clusters as case studies, we argue that twinning relationships increase people-to-people exchanges and produce long-term economic and cultural benefits beyond the term and scope of individual agreements. Leaders at the municipal and provincial levels thus have a significant and even outsized role in shaping Canada – Indo-Pacific relations. Our research suggests not only that twinning should be a key component in a future Canadian Indo-Pacific strategy, but also that the agency of subnational governments in Indo-Pacific relations ought to be of higher consideration for federal policy-makers.
Saturday, September 25th, 2021 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. PT