On February 24, the Canada West Foundation hosted The Rest of Asia: From ASEAN, to CPTPP and RCEP, the first session in our Trade Ahead Series (register for upcoming sessions here). Keynote speaker Dr. Deborah Elms, President of the Asian Trade Centre in Singapore, shared her insights with CWF’s Trade & Investment Centre Director Carlo Dade, and co-moderators Chris Dekker, President and CEO, Saskatchewan Trade Export Partnership, Mariette Mulaire, President and CEO, World Trade Centre Winnipeg, and Mustafa Sahin, Vice President, Investment & Trade, Edmonton Global.

It was engaging and lively conversation – Carlo likened it to heading into a bar following a major global trade conference and seeing the keynote speaker with four folks you know from Western Canada at a table talking, and you get to pull up a chair and listen.

Further information and reading

What is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and what does it mean for Western Canada?
Plan B for Canadian trade policy
TPP summit a critical moment for Canada’s Asian trade ambitions
Asian Trade Centre
World Trade Centre Winnipeg
Edmonton Global
Calgary Economic Development trade accelerator

Here are a few highlights from the talk:

  • While Canada is not a signatory to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the agreement creates new supply chains within Asia as well as with Australia and New Zealand, who are also signatories, which increases competition for the market. Asian countries would previously go to foreign companies for goods, particularly raw goods, but they now have easier access to regional trade. RCEP also paves the way for member countries to develop new trade rules, standards, and procedures for the region.
  • Despite this increased competition, Canada is in a great position as both a Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and G7 member and should leverage that position to access the Asian market. Canada can also market itself to Asia as an entry port into the United States and Europe markets, much like Singapore is to ASEAN. CPTPP members should work together to expand CPTPP to include the UK and, if possible, Taiwan, and encourage ratification for those who have not yet ratified.
  • On food security and climate change, Canada should market to Asian nations as pragmatic and practical over other nations. On food, Canada can also highlight that it is a safe, secure and consistent supplier. Businesses should do more to take advantage of key CPTPP provisions related to movement of expertise and people as well as the comprehensive product protections.
  • In terms of technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the conversation is just starting around trade rules and how to proceed. If Canada wants to be a leader, the country needs to be in the conversation early. A first step would be to get a digital economy agreement with a country like Singapore.

– Stephany Laverty is a Policy Analyst with the Canada West Foundation