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Canada's Objectives for Negotiations for a Canada-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement

On November 16, 2021, during the 10th ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM)-Canada Consultations, Canada and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)Footnote 1 agreed to launch negotiations toward a Canada-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA). On November 24, 2021, the Government of Canada submitted to Parliament a Notice of Intent to enter into negotiations toward a Canada‑ASEAN FTA, in accordance with the amended Policy on Tabling of Treaties in Parliament.

The launch of FTA negotiations represents a significant milestone in the Canada-ASEAN relationship and in the renewal and deepening of Canada’s economic partnerships and commercial engagement across the Indo-Pacific. It demonstrates the government’s continued commitment to pursuing free trade opportunities—including through new bilateral and regional agreements in the Indo-Pacific—and to advancing Canada’s Export Diversification Strategy for the benefit of Canadian consumers and businesses.

Canada and ASEAN have been assessing the benefits of a potential FTA since 2017, beginning with the launch of exploratory discussions, followed by the establishment of an annual Trade Policy Dialogue. Canada and ASEAN conducted a joint study on the economic potential for a Canada-ASEAN FTA, which was concluded in 2018. Canada’s modelling projects that an FTA could increase Canada’s GDP by US$2.54 billion, and could boost Canadian exports to ASEAN countries by as much as US$2.67 billion. This is on top of the gains already enjoyed as a result of Canada’s existing preferential market access to Vietnam and Singapore under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)Footnote 2.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ASEAN was one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world and, after two years of slower growth due to the pandemic, ASEAN is forecast to rebound in 2022 to become again one of the world’s fastest-growing regions. Collectively, ASEAN has the third‑largest population in the world, after China and India, with over 661.8 million people. As a group, ASEAN member state economies represent Canada’s sixth-largest trading partner (2020). Despite a 1.4% decrease in bilateral merchandise trade during the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s trade in goods and services with ASEAN remains important and totalled $32.9 billion in 2020.

A Canada-ASEAN FTA that eliminates tariffs and other barriers and enhances market access would help Canadian businesses further integrate and benefit from the dynamic supply chains in the region. A Canada-ASEAN FTA could also create a more transparent, predictable, and accessible environment for Canadian investment to ASEAN. Canada is now the eighth-largest foreign investor in ASEAN, but is falling behind other growing players in the region.

Canada’s interests in negotiating an FTA with ASEAN extend beyond strengthening our trade and investment relationship. A Canada-ASEAN FTA would advance the government’s objective to deepen Canada’s partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region in the context of expanding diplomatic engagement and the Joint Declaration on ASEAN-Canada Enhanced Partnership. It also supports ASEAN centrality, which as an underlying principle for cooperation, helps operationalize Canada’s commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

ASEAN represents a diverse group of member states, each with a different set of opportunities and considerations. The Government of Canada’s vision for a Canada-ASEAN FTA is a commercially meaningful and comprehensive agreement that gives due consideration to the different levels of development amongst ASEAN member states.

The Government of Canada conducted public consultations from September 1 to October 16, 2018, to solicit the views of Canadians on a possible Canada-ASEAN FTA. Public consultations highlighted the significant opportunities identified by Canadians and Canadian businesses in the ASEAN market across a broad range of sectors, including agriculture and agri-food, fish and seafood, natural resources, manufacturing, and financial services. A number of submissions supported the government’s broader efforts to diversify Canada’s trade toward the Indo-Pacific region. Some submissions expressed concern with respect to human rights and labour issues in the ASEAN region. Organizations representing supply-managed sectors also requested that no market access commitments be made that impact their products. In pursuing a Canada-ASEAN FTA, the government will be guided by the views shared during public consultations and ongoing engagement with Canadians throughout the negotiating process. Canada’s approach to negotiations will also be guided by a comprehensive Gender-based Analysis Plus and an environmental assessment.

In addition to seeking new commercial opportunities, Canada will seek commitments in the FTA to uphold environmental protection and labour rights and standards as well as promote gender equality through provisions which seek to address the specific challenges that women and other underrepresented groups face in international trade. Canada will preserve the right of governments to regulate in the public interest, including in areas such as public health and safety, education, social services, and the environment. In addition, the government will seek to preserve flexibility to adopt and maintain measures related to Canada’s cultural sector and to fulfill Canada’s legal obligations to Indigenous peoples, including Aboriginal rights as recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the rights set out in the self-government agreements.

The Government of Canada is fully committed to a high level of transparency throughout the negotiation of a Canada-ASEAN FTA. In this spirit, the Government has agreed to publish a summary of its specific negotiating objectives for the negotiation of new comprehensive trade agreements.

In line with the considerations listed above, Canada will seek to negotiate an FTA that:

Trade in goods

National treatment and market access

Rules of origin and origin procedures

Customs and trade facilitation

Trade remedies

Sanitary and phytosanitary measures

Technical barriers to trade

Investment and trade in services


Cross-border trade in services and development and administration of measures (Domestic regulation)

Financial services

Temporary entry for business persons


Other areas

Digital trade

Government procurement

Competition policy

State-Owned enterprises and designated monopolies

Intellectual property



Good regulatory practices

Transparency, anti-corruption and responsible business conduct

Trade and gender

Trade and indigenous peoples

Small and medium-sized enterprises


Dispute settlement

Institutional and general exceptions

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