Canada’s relations with ASEAN

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising 10 member states. It was established by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand on August 8, 1967, and was later joined by Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Myanmar (Burma) and Laos (1997) and Cambodia (1999).

The objectives of ASEAN are to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development; promote regional peace and stability, as well as respect for justice and the rule of law; and increase collaboration across a vast range of economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative spheres.

In 2008, ASEAN members adopted the ASEAN Charter, officially creating ASEAN as a legal entity, and established several institutional entities, including the twice-yearly ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN Coordinating Council and the ASEAN community councils. The ASEAN Secretariat, located in Jakarta, Indonesia, and led by the secretary-general, coordinates the work plans, projects and meetings of ASEAN-associated bodies. The ASEAN Secretariat is also responsible for coordinating ASEAN’s relationship with external partners, such as Canada.

Canada became an ASEAN dialogue partner in 1977 and is one of only 10 countries with this important level of partnership. The partners cooperate on political and security issues, regional integration, economic interests, interfaith dialogue, transnational crime and counterterrorism, disaster risk reduction and other areas.

ASEAN is important to Canada

ASEAN is at the heart of Asia’s regional security architecture and, as a region, is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Canada, as a Pacific nation, recognizes this enormous potential and has significantly developed its relationship with ASEAN in recent years. In 2009, Canada appointed its first ambassador to ASEAN and adopted the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-Canada Enhanced Partnership. The declaration is now being implemented through a recently adopted plan of action (for 2016-2020) that identifies specific areas of cooperation to advance political and security cooperation, economic cooperation, and socio-cultural cooperation. Furthermore, Canada recently expanded its diplomatic presence in Southeast Asia and now has diplomatic representation in all ten ASEAN member states.

The Canada-ASEAN Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment adopted in October 2011, is the first trade and investment instrument concluded between ASEAN and Canada. It provides a platform for regular exchanges of information on opportunities and explores ways to expand and promote trade and investment between Canada and ASEAN.

The ASEAN Regional Development Program is another key aspect of Canada’s engagement with ASEAN. It focuses on supporting sustainable economic growth through initiatives in disaster risk management and advancing democracy through investments in promoting and protecting human rights. The program also works to reduce poverty by providing support to ASEAN for initiatives that address transboundary and shared issues across the region.

Quick facts

  • Since 2011, Canada has provided $79 million in security assistance to ASEAN member states. This support is helping ASEAN achieve its ambitious integration goals, which in turn contributes to regional peace and security and helps promote Canadian foreign policy objectives in Southeast Asia.
  • As a group, ASEAN member economies represent Canada’s sixth-largest merchandise trading partner. In 2016, Canada-ASEAN merchandise trade reached $21.6 billion.
  • Tourism between Canada and ASEAN has seen significant growth in recent years. Between 2009 and 2013, total visits increased by more than a fifth. In 2013, 451,000 Canadian tourists visited the ASEAN region and 165,000 persons from the region visited Canada.
  • The number of students from ASEAN member states studying in Canada continues to grow, rising 75 percent between 2005 and 2014 to reach 11,568.
  • The ASEAN region accounted for 17.8 percent of the 260,000 persons admitted to Canada as permanent residents in 2014.