Why the Great White North needs to focus on Asia

           Ottawa has been slow to respond to Asia’s dramatic evolution. Canada’s aid strategy has not been recalibrated to allow for a more effective Canada’s foreign relations, given Asia’s economic power and influence.  Based on current trends with Asia as the future hub of the world economy- China, Japan, India and Russia – Canada should give serious consideration as to how its interests and values are effectively promoted, and develop a coherent strategy with the Asian region.    In Tsuyoshi Kawasaki’s “Strangers No Longer”, it stated that, “Today, Asia is a larger market for Canada than all of Europe; Japan alone is a larger market for Canada than the UK, France and Germany combined. More than ever before, Canada’s future prosperity is tied to Asia Pacific” (2008). Simply, Canada needs to develop a unified, strategic vision and foreign policy for how it relates to Asia, and how it needs to stay relevant in the world’s most dynamic region. 

           Asia’s rise and its impact on the global order, and what it means for Canadians are often overlooked by scholars of Canadian foreign policy.    It’s imperative to anchor our framework by understanding Asia’s development stages and policy processes.  There is strong evidence that Canada-Asia relations are best described as a checkerboard.  It has a true partnership with Japan, as both tackle common issues outside bilateral relations and share basic values such as democracy.  But in China, despite that the country is an emerging global power, Ottawa has never formulated a clear policy and the Harper government did not list its Canada-China relations a priority.    In Shifting Purpose: Asia’s Rise and Canada’s Foreign Aid, Gregory Chin aptly said, “The challenge for the Canadian government is not only that of ensuring its relative capability, which is an ongoing concern, but more fundamentally, issues of purpose, strategic intention, and programming effectiveness linked to state purpose” (pg. 991).  Before it’s too late in the game, it seems that Canada needs to engage with China and nurture its ties in Asia to secure its relevance in the international stage and avoid the catch-up syndrome.

      Chin, Gregory.  2008.    Shifting Purpose: Asia’s Rise and Canada’s Foreign Aid.

      Kawasaki, Tsuyoshi.  2008.  Strangers No Longer: The Identity Shift in Canada-Japan Relationship.