Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall called for a renewed Canadian focus on building new opportunities with member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“The federal government needs to make a free trade agreement with ASEAN a priority,” Wall said.
“We also need to encourage more openness to Asian investment and research and development partnerships. There should be greater opportunities for Canadian students to learn Asian language and culture, and Canadian companies and governments must make logistics in support of Canada-Asia trade a higher priority.”
Wall told an audience of roughly 175 corporate executives and government leaders that ASEAN countries must be a higher priority.
He also applauded the federal government’s recent efforts to re-engage the region, including:
•The appointment of our first ambassador to ASEAN in 2009;
•The 2010 Treat of Amity and Co-operation in Southeast Asia;
•The joint agreement on trade and investment signed in 2011;
•The decision last year to admit more than 37,000 permanent residents and 18,000 temporary workers from ASEAN countries.
Premier Wall used his ASEAN speech to announce the formation of a new body, to assist the Saskatchewan government in meeting its ambitious trade expansion goals.
The new eight-member Saskatchewan-Asia Advisory Council will provide advice on increasing trade, recruitment of international students, innovation and investment attraction.
“In our growth plan, we set the goal of doubling the value of Saskatchewan exports by 2020 and we know that growth will come primarily from Asian customers,” Wall said. “One of the first things I’d like the Advisory Council to consider is how best to support Saskatchewan companies on the ground, attract investment, promote agricultural exports and recruit skilled workers.”
Members of Asia Advisory Council include:
—Grant Kook, President and CEO of Westcap Mgt. Ltd;
—Steve Dechka, President and CEO of Canpotex;
—Terry Bergman, CEO of International Road Dynamics;
—Harold Fast, FastGenetics;
—Eva Kwok, Chair and CEO Amara Holdings ;
—Kasi Rao, Senior Fellow, Asia Pacific Foundation;
—Lionel LaBelle, President and CEO of STEP; and
—Doug Moen, Deputy Minister to the Premier.
Canadian firms have more than $11 billion invested in ASEAN region, greater than Canada’s investment in China and India combined. Over the past five years, Saskatchewan’s exports to the region have grown by 31 per cent. The province is sending more goods here than any other province in Canada.
“However, now is not a time to be satisfied with current momentum,” Wall said. “My respectful but urgent message to Canadians is that we have to start working a little harder on this relationship.
“Some have observed that our engagement in the ASEAN region is improving but episodic. We need to be here for the long term.”