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March 06, 2020

ASEAN officials would like to see progress in free trade talks with Canada

Canada and the ASEAN group of countries have been in exploratory free trade negotiations since 2017.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising 10 member states. Established by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in 1967, it was later joined by Brunei, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Indonesia’s Ambassador to Canada, Abdul Kadir Jailani, in his presentation at the “Focus Group Discussion on the Potential and Benefits of an ASEAN-Canada FTA” held in Ottawa this week presented his views on the importance of a potential ASEAN-Canada FTA and how it can boost the economic growth of both Parties under the agreement.

Ambassador Jailani also pointed out some potential gaps that will require both Parties’ further attention and assessment during potential future negotiations as a consequence of different capacities and flexibilities among ASEAN members as well as with Canada. These gaps include Non-Tariff Measures, Investment, Sustainable Development, Financial Services, and also Economic and Technical Cooperation.

The Focus Group discussed about the longstanding ASEAN-Canada bilateral relations and how it evolves continuously. It also talked about potential economic benefits of an ASEAN-Canada FTA for both Parties and probable gaps that should be taken into considerations in prospective future negotiations.

The event was attended by several ASEAN Heads of Missions and officials in Ottawa, officials from the government of Canada, business communities, academicians and think tanks in related fields.

In the Fall of 2018, the Government conducted public consultations to seek the views of Canadians on a possible free trade agreement (FTA) with the ASEAN. The Government received 49 submissions, the majority (20) of which were from agricultural stakeholders. The Government also engaged with a variety of stakeholders in meetings and teleconferences during this period, and during this period engaged with 32 stakeholders and partners.

Overall, stakeholders expressed support for FTA exploratory discussions with ASEAN and highlighted the significant opportunities for Canadians and Canadian businesses in the ASEAN market – notably with non-Trans-Pacific Partnership economies (Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand) – across a broad range of sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing and services, among others. Stakeholders highlighted that a possible FTA could address existing barriers for Canadian firms, including high tariffs, sanitary and phytosanitary issues and non-tariff barriers.

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