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Canada strengthens ties with ASEAN, expands partnerships in the Indo-Pacific

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, Sunday concluded his participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, hosted by Cambodia in Phnom Penh, where Canada was invited as a guest of the Chair, the prime minister’s office – communications, announced.

“Convening under the theme of “Addressing Challenges Together,” the prime minister further strengthened Canada’s relationship as a reliable and engaged partner with ASEAN and expanded partnerships in the Indo-Pacific. His priorities included promoting regional peace and stability, expanding and diversifying trade to create good, middle-class jobs in Canada and Southeast Asia, strengthening economic resilience, and investing in and connecting our peoples, while building a clean future.”

During an ASEAN-Canada Commemorative Summit on November 12, which marked the 45th anniversary of ASEAN-Canada dialogue relations, Canada and ASEAN committed to establish a Canada-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. This new Strategic Partnership represents a strong endorsement of Canada’s engagement in the region and an important symbolic step to continue deepening our relations with ASEAN moving forward. The prime minister also announced an investment of $40 million to launch a new Indo-Pacific Engagement Initiative (IPEI), through which Canada will support the participation of Canadian civil society in the region and enhance Canadian engagement in the Indo-Pacific, including through new research and study opportunities for Canadians.

At the Commemorative Summit, Canada and ASEAN released a joint statement highlighting their strong bilateral relationship and priorities for future bilateral cooperation.

Ahead of the release of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy prime minister Trudeau announced initiatives to strengthen Canada’s trade and investment relationship in the region:

  • $24.5 million for a new office of the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada in the region, to help build and strengthen relations with local partners, including in the areas of foreign policy, cultural diplomacy, and academic ties;
  • $24.1 million to establish the Canadian Trade Gateway in Southeast Asia, an enhanced Canadian hub that will help expand Canada’s business and investment networks by linking businesses to existing incubators and accelerators – thereby strengthening the economy and creating jobs on both sides of the Pacific; and
  • A $13.1 million contribution to the ASEAN-Canada Plan of Action Trust Fund to help close development gaps, ensure strong regional engagement with ASEAN, and advance negotiations toward a Canada-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.

At the Summit, the prime minister also announced an investment of $14.2 million to expand the successful Canada-ASEAN Scholarships and Educational Exchanges for Development (SEED) program. The enhanced program, which is expected to award over 800 new scholarships, will reach developing Indo-Pacific countries, encourage valuable exchanges and skills sharing, and introduce more education and research in shared areas of interest.

At a Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) roundtable with government and development partners as well as civil society organizations with ties to Canada, prime minister Trudeau, announced:

  • $32.8 million for a call for proposals to support civil society organizations that have expertise in delivering development assistance in the Indo-Pacific with the goal to promote gender equality and inclusion, in particular for those most at risk of being left behind; and
  • A new series of Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) dialogues with ASEAN in 2023 to provide a platform for discussions on the implementation of the WPS agenda in ASEAN and meaningfully engage women on an inclusive and sustainable approach to peace.

To promote sustainable development in the region, the prime minister announced the following initiatives:

  • $100 million in Feminist International Assistance Policy development funding to support development initiatives in the Indo-Pacific; and
  • $85,000 for Canada to host a Canada–Indo-Pacific symposium on post-pandemic border and migration management where we will reinforce partnerships and share Canadian knowledge and expertise with ASEAN Member States, including to support economic recovery and post-pandemic growth, improve border management and fight transnational crime, and protect gender rights and vulnerable populations.

With a particular focus on supporting demining initiatives in ASEAN Members States, the prime minister announced:

  • $750,000 to help build Laos’ demining capacity by establishing comprehensive standards for landmine clearance and supporting the recruitment, training, and supervision of personnel to ensure the safety of demining activities in Laos;
  • $190,000 to accelerate mine-clearing in Cambodia and reduce risks from landmines, including by delivering training so women can safely participate in demining activities and by leveraging Canadian expertise for faster, more effective mine clearing; and
  • $50,000 to support a training project that will build on longstanding Canadian assistance to Cambodia in the field of demining to help protect demining personnel and clear landmines in the country.

With a focus on building a sustainable and green future for everyone, the prime minister also announced $84.3 million for the new Shared Ocean Fund, which will reinforce a healthy marine environment in the Indo-Pacific region and support measures against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

While at the ASEAN Summit, prime minister Trudeau condemned Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine, which has created significant threat to global peace and stability, food and energy security issues as well as challenges in global supply chains, and is a threat to the post-pandemic economic recovery.

“Canada and ASEAN have a long history of partnership. Canada stands with ASEAN as a steadfast partner, working together to secure an inclusive, strong, and people-centered future. I look forward to working with ASEAN and its Member States, as well as the greater Indo-Pacific region, to grow and diversify trade, create good, middle-class jobs, promote regional peace and security, and build closer ties between our peoples for a safer, cleaner world,” said prime minister Trudeau.



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