Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious day from the Pearl of the Orient!

ASEAN is on its way to becoming a fully integrated Economic Union by 2015. As it moves closer to the mid-2015 period when integration will be executed, it is most prudent for wealth economies and emerging markets to concur trade agreements with the southeast Asian bloc that is now rising to the fore as a global economic power.

ASEAN is indubitably traversing the path of a Pillar of the Global economy which it can achieve before 2020. With a population that is nearing 700 millions, a large market it impeccably is for enthused trade partners. It now boasts of a middle class numbering past 150,000,000 heads which will breach in a couple of years the USA’s 160,000,000 estimated ‘constantly buying consumer base’ of upper & middle class consumers.

Canada just signed a Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment with the ASEAN, a pro-active decision that will see the fruits of the covenant accruing even before 2015. The summary news report is shown below.

[Philippines, 15 October 2011]
ASEAN and Canada Adopts Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment
Jakarta, 3 October 2011
The ASEAN-Canada relations achieved another significant milestone yesterday as Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, Minister of Trade, Indonesia and Chair of the ASEAN Economic Ministers, and Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, Canada exchanged letters of adoption of the Joint Declaration between ASEAN and Canada on Trade and Investment.
The Joint Declaration was endorsed by the ASEAN Economic Ministers at their 43rd meeting in August 2011 in Manado, Indonesia. The Joint Declaration, which is also a key outcome stated in the ASEAN-Canada Plan of Action, aims to enhance trade, industrial cooperation and investment; promote and facilitate increased involvement of the business sector, in particular small and medium-scale enterprises; promote greater coordination in the WTO and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum; and develop a mechanism for regular exchanges of information on trade and investment opportunities and other promotional activities related to trade and investment.
“We will task our Senior Officials to follow-up on the Joint Declaration and develop a Work Plan. Emphasis will be given to activities related to the development of SMEs and effective partnership with the private sector,” said Minister Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu.
Canada is ASEAN’s 13th largest trading partner and 9th largest source of FDI. Trade between ASEAN and Canada grew at a significant pace, recording annual average growth of 21% between 2005 and 2008. Due to the global financial crisis and economic downturn, trade flows dipped to 15.8% in 2009 but showed signs of recovery in 2010 with total trade amounting to US$9.8 billion, an increase of 8.6% over the previous year. Foreign direct investment (FDI) flow from Canada to ASEAN increased more than two folds in 2010 amounting to USD 1.6 billion. In 2009, the total tourist arrivals to ASEAN from Canada were 1.41 million.
ASEAN is becoming an important market and investment destination for Canada. ASEAN as a group is Canada’s seventh most important trading partner. In 2010, Canada’s investment in the ASEAN region was more than Canada’s investment in China and India combined.
“We see enormous opportunity in ASEAN. It’s a region with a growing middle class and abundant natural resources. It is also an increasingly integrated region that is attracting trade and investment from around the world,” said Minister Ed Fast.
The Joint Declaration between ASEAN-Canada Trade and Investment is timely as ASEAN gears towards deepening its economic integration and enhancing its linkages with its trading partners. “The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is based on open regionalism and deepening trade and economic ties with our partners is an integral part of ASEAN’s economic community building. The AEC will provide trade, economic and business opportunities for ASEAN, Canada and other trading partners to tap on,” said Pushpanathan Sundram, Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN for AEC in his opening remarks.
In conjunction with his first visit to Jakarta, the Canadian Minister of International Trade also had a bilateral meeting with Pushpanathan Sundram who was representing the Secretary General of ASEAN. The meeting discussed on identifying the important next steps in increasing trade and investment, strengthening cooperation in the areas of social welfare, particularly on gender issues and human rights, as well as establishing an effective platform to engage the private sector.
Canada is one of ASEAN’s oldest Dialogue Partner. ASEAN and Canada will celebrate the 35th Anniversary of their relations in 2012.

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