Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy
Table of contents
- The Indo-Pacific: A new horizon of opportunity
- Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy
- Strategic objectives and initiatives
- Conclusion: Canada’s Indo-Pacific future
The Indo-Pacific: A new horizon of opportunity
Global importance of the Indo-Pacific region
The Indo-Pacific region will play a critical role in shaping Canada’s future over the next half-century. Encompassing 40 economies, over four billion people and $47.19 trillion in economic activity, it is the world’s fastest growing-region and home to six of Canada’s top 13 trading partners. The Indo-Pacific region represents significant opportunities for growing the economy here at home, as well as opportunities for Canadian workers and businesses for decades to come.
The Indo-Pacific comprises 40 countries and economies: Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, the Pacific Island Countries (14), Pakistan, People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Philippines, Republic of Korea (ROK), Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam.
- 50% of world GDP by 2040
- 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions
- 65% of world’s population
- 67% of world’s Indigenous peoples
- 37% of the world’s poor
- 1 in 5 Canadians have family ties to the region
- PRC, Japan, India, ROK, Australia: 5 of the region's largest economies
- US$29.3T combined GDP of top 5 compared to US$17.2T for whole EU-27
The Indo-Pacific is rapidly becoming the global centre of economic dynamism and strategic challenge. Every issue that matters to Canadians—including our national security, economic prosperity, respect for international law, democratic values, public health, protecting our environment, the rights of women and girls and human rights—will be shaped by the relationships Canada and its allies and partners have with Indo-Pacific countries. Our ability to maintain open skies, open trading systems and open societies, as well as to effectively address climate change, will depend in part on what happens over the next several decades in the Indo-Pacific region.
Today, the Indo-Pacific makes up more than one-third of all global economic activity. Three of the world’s largest economies—the People’s Republic of China (China), India and Japan—are in this part of the world. By 2040—less than two decades from now—the region will account for more than half of the global economy, or more than twice the share of the United States. By 2030, it will be home to two-thirds of the global middle class, having lifted millions out of poverty through economic growth.
The region’s economic dynamism and population growth are driving demand for education, health services, food, agriculture and fisheries, natural resources and critical minerals, energy, financial services, advanced manufacturing and green infrastructure. These are all sectors of Canadian strength, in which Canada has a global reputation for excellence. In the infrastructure sector alone, there is an estimated $2.1 trillion opportunity for strategic investments and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific. Seizing these and other strategic opportunities will help safeguard Canada’s economic security, build our future prosperity and help create good, well-paying jobs.
Our people-to-people ties are a vital part of this opportunity. Canada attracts talented people from the Indo-Pacific to study in our schools and universities, to work in our communities and to live in and contribute to our society. In fact, Canada welcomes more international students from India than from any other country in the world. These ties enrich our social and economic fabric and make us stronger. Simply put: the rise of the Indo-Pacific can create extraordinary local benefits, as well as increase prosperity and drive economic growth across Canada.
Trade Connections with the Indo-Pacific
- Canada’s second-largest regional export market and trading partners after U.S.
- $226B Annual 2-way merchandise trade between Canada and Indo-Pacific Region
- $64B Value of 2-way capital investment from 2020 to 2022
- 11.1% of Canada’s total merchandise exports in 2021
- Indo-Pacific includes 6 of Canada’s top 13 trading partners (India, Japan, PRC, ROK, Taiwan, Vietnam)
- Two-way service trade has grown by 80% since 2010
- FDI has more than doubled in both directions since 2010
As great power competition deepens in the region, inter-state tensions are on the rise, many with historical roots. Regional peace and prosperity are threatened by instability on the Korean Peninsula as a result of North Korean provocations; rising violence in Myanmar following the recent military coup d’état; clashes on the India-China and India-Pakistan borders; escalating tensions in the South and East China Seas and across the Taiwan Strait; and severe poverty and inequality. The Indo-Pacific is home to four states that possess nuclear nuclear weapons (China, India, North Korea and Pakistan).
At the heart of this dynamic economic region, China’s rise as a global actor is reshaping the strategic outlook of every state in the region, including Canada. China has benefitted from the rules-based international order to grow and prosper, but it is now actively seeking to reinterpret these rules to gain greater advantage. China’s assertive pursuit of its economic and security interests, advancement of unilateral claims, foreign interference and increasingly coercive treatment of other countries and economies have significant implications in the region, in Canada and around the world. Respect for the sovereignty of other states is a cornerstone of the rules-based international order and of governments’ ability to work together to solve shared problems.
Canada is engaging in the Indo-Pacific in coordination with our partners, which also recognize the rising importance of the region. Many of Canada’s closest allies, including the United States, the European Union, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, have increased or are considering increasing their presence in the region, guided by their own interests and strategies and based on significant investments in diplomacy, in their military presence, in trade promotion and in development assistance. Within this broader context, Canada has a unique contribution to make based on our particular history and relationships in the Indo-Pacific.
The active participation of Indo-Pacific countries is essential if we are to address global challenges head on. Progress in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss can only be realized with the full participation of Indo-Pacific countries, which have some of the highest and fastest-growing greenhouse gas emissions in the world; the region accounts for over half of global carbon dioxide emissions. While Canada is also investing in reducing its own emissions, we must engage with Indo-Pacific nations to fight climate change together. The region also includes nearly two-thirds of the world’s oceans and is among the most vulnerable globally to the effects of climate change. South Asia’s glaciers are melting, and many of the smaller Pacific Island Countries are facing catastrophic rises in sea levels. And these challenges do not exist in isolation. For example, the South China Sea—one of the region’s key security hot spots—hosts more than half of the world’s fishing fleets, which compete for increasingly scarce marine resources. When security, biodiversity loss and climate challenges overlap, as they do in several cases in the Indo-Pacific, they aggravate and amplify each other.
Despite several decades of broad economic growth, many parts of the Indo-Pacific region face ongoing development challenges. Poverty and inequality remain realities for far too many people in the region. Canada is committed to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals in cooperation with partners across the region. The benefits of inclusive social, economic and environmental efforts will have a multiplier effect throughout the region and in Canada.
Canada: A Pacific country
Canada is a Pacific country. It shares 25,000 kilometres of Pacific coastline, robust trading relationships with economies across the region, deep people-to-people ties and a rich history of cultural exchange.
Indigenous Peoples in Canada have called Pacific coast lands and shorelines home for millennia, and they have shared Indigenous trade networks that have historically extended to Indigenous Peoples all around the Pacific.
Waves of people who have come from the region have contributed to Canada’s vitality and prosperity. Their legacy and descendants continue to enrich Canada from coast to coast to coast. Today, fully half of new Canadians come from the region, and Canada’s largest diasporas are of Indo-Pacific origin. The relationship goes both ways, with hundreds of thousands of Canadians living in the region.
Each year, large numbers of tourists travel from Indo-Pacific countries to experience Canada or visit loved ones. And hundreds of thousands of Canadians travel to the Indo-Pacific to study, experience its cultures or do business. At heart, our ties to the region are all about people and a shared history. Canadians and our Indo-Pacific neighbours share a deep appreciation of each other.
As an active, engaged and reliable partner in the Indo-Pacific, Canada will deepen relationships that have been built through decades of government, private sector, security and civil society cooperation. The rising influence of the Indo-Pacific region is a once-in-a-generation global shift that requires a generational Canadian response.
Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy
The rise of the Indo-Pacific and the profound impacts the region will have on the lives of all Canadians demand a comprehensive, whole-of-society strategy to guide Canada’s actions. Canada must invest resources and build knowledge and capacity to engage. How Canada engages in the region will set the pace for the future and prosperity of our economy, security and stability.
To seize opportunities in the national interest of Canadians, while defending the values they hold dear, Canada will invest in building capacity to engage with countries across the region, while paying particular attention to Australia, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, China, India, Japan, Pacific Island Countries, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand.
The Strategy outlines five interconnected strategic objectives:
- Promote peace, resilience and security
- Expand trade, investment and supply chain resilience
- Invest in and connect people
- Build a sustainable and green future
- Canada as an active and engaged partner to the Indo-Pacific
Overall, Canada will defend its national interests. The first objective commits Canada to promoting peace, resilience and security (Objective 1) in the Indo-Pacific. Stability in this region directly impacts the safety, prosperity and security of Canadians. Canada will invest in an enhanced military presence, along with intelligence and cyber security, to promote security in the region and ensure the safety of Canadians. Canada will build on its Women, Peace and Security agenda and its established security partnerships to reinforce regional capabilities and promote stability.
Canada will also focus on trade, investment and supply chain resilience (Objective 2) to seize economic opportunities and strengthen and diversify our regional partnerships, building a stronger and more secure economy at home while strengthening our economic ties across the Indo-Pacific.
Canada will invest in its people-to-people ties with the region (Objective 3) through expanded education exchanges and bolstered visa-processing capacity and by empowering Canadian organizations and experts to engage in the region even more. Canada will also increase our feminist international assistance to address local development challenges, advance collective efforts toward the Sustainable Development Goals and continue actively engaging in defending human rights in the region, including women’s rights.
Canada is committed to fighting climate change and ensuring a sustainable and green future (Objective 4) for people from the Indo-Pacific and for Canadians. Canada will share expertise in clean technology, oceans management, energy transition and climate finance, and it will work collaboratively across the region to reduce emissions and prevent further biodiversity loss. Canada will also work in concert with G7 partners to help the region meet its growing $2.1 trillion infrastructure funding gap.
Finally, Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy expands and deepens regional partnerships (Objective 5). Canada will seek to reinforce its influence among partners and allies in the region, offering more diplomatic, economic, military and technical support and cooperation, and answering the call from regional partners for deeper engagement.
This is a whole-of-society effort. Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy has implications for all Canadians, and it leverages the efforts of non-governmental organizations, non-profit groups, the private sector, universities and colleges, Indigenous Peoples and Canadian workers. Canada will support their commitment and effort, and it aims to position Canadians for success through engagement with this dynamic, rapidly growing part of the world.
How Canada is engaging in the region
Canada has strong relationships with partners and friends in the Indo-Pacific. We must build on this foundation by deepening our existing friendships and seeking new partners. We must show the world the very best of what Canada has to offer, diversify our diplomatic networks and be a stronger force for positive change.
There are also countries in the region with whom Canada fundamentally disagrees; we must be clear-eyed about the threats and risks they pose. But the collective challenges we face, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and nuclear proliferation, are too important to tackle in isolation. We must remain in dialogue with those with whom we do not see eye-to-eye. Where we can, we will pursue mutually beneficial collaboration, anchored in our commitment to protecting the safety of Canadians and the strategic interests of Canada.
Canada will build on key multilateral dialogues and forums in the Indo-Pacific, including ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Pacific Islands Forum. Canada’s engagement will also draw upon its existing partnerships with key allies such as the United States and the European Union and its member states, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Canada will leverage its ongoing contributions to key global groupings and partnerships such the G7 and Five Eyes. Canada will continue to engage with Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) partners on high economic standards and a wide range of partners including democratic partners on pressing governance issues.
Canada will deliver feminist international assistance programming across the region, responding to the needs of countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Pacific Island Countries. We will strengthen cooperation with key countries across the region to support their transition into more inclusive and prosperous partners.
Canada’s engagement with countries in the Indo-Pacific region will be guided by our interests and consistent with our values.
The People’s Republic of China
Canada’s evolving approach to China is a critical part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
China is an increasingly disruptive global power. Key regional actors have complex and deeply intertwined relationships with China. Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy is informed by its clear-eyed understanding of this global China, and Canada’s approach is aligned with those of our partners in the region and around the world.
China’s rise, enabled by the same international rules and norms that it now increasingly disregards, has had an enormous impact on the Indo-Pacific, and it has ambitions to become the leading power in the region. China is making large-scale investments to establish its economic influence, diplomatic impact, offensive military capabilities and advanced technologies. China is looking to shape the international order into a more permissive environment for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours.
This can be seen in China’s disregard for UN rulings on disputes in the South China Sea, and its actions to further militarize that region and challenge navigation and overflight rights. Canada has experienced, like others, the impact of coercive diplomacy and non-market trade practices, such as forced labour. The global community continues to see the effects of lending practices that diverge from international standards and create risks for developing economies and their governance. We see China’s increasing reluctance to comply with the mandates of UN institutions, such as its efforts to block the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on the situation of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China, from consideration by the UN Human Rights Council. Canada has been compelled to adjust warnings to Canadians travelling to China, as well as to the business community, to account for the growing risk of arbitrary application of Chinese laws. In short, behaviours and policies that erode the existing rules-based international order undermine Canadian interests, whether they come from countries that are big or small—but they are especially challenging when pursued by rising powers with divergent national values.
At the same time, China’s sheer size and influence makes cooperation necessary to address some of the world’s existential pressures, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, global health and nuclear proliferation. And China’s economy offers significant opportunities for Canadian exporters.
Canada will, at all times, unapologetically defend our national interest, be it with regard to the global rules that govern global trade, international human rights or navigation and overflight rights. Our approach to China is shaped by a realistic and clear-eyed assessment of today’s China.
In areas of profound disagreement, we will challenge China, including when it engages in coercive behaviour—economic or otherwise—ignores human rights obligations or undermines our national security interests and those of partners in the region. We must all abide by international rules. We will work together with regional partners. We will cooperate with China to find solutions to global issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, global health and nuclear proliferation.
Our approach to China, which is inseparable from our broader Indo-Pacific Strategy, operates across domestic, bilateral, regional and multilateral spheres:
- At the domestic level, Canada will continue to strengthen the defence of our Canadian infrastructure, democracy and Canadian citizens against foreign interference. This includes reviewing, modernizing and adding new provisions to the Investment Canada Act that protect our national interests, as well as acting decisively when investments from state-owned enterprises and other foreign entities threaten our national security, including our critical minerals supply chains; further protecting Canadian intellectual property and research; pushing back against any form of foreign interference on Canadian soil; and strengthening our cyber security systems. At the same time, we are committing significant resources to enhance Canadian competencies on China across and beyond government to ensure that we are better able to understand, assess and respond to the growing impact of China in the region and beyond.
- At the bilateral level, Canada will pursue dialogue with China to advance Canada’s national interests while remaining true to our values, all the while focusing relentlessly on Canadian priorities. Canada is reviewing all mechanisms and structures, such as Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and Dialogues, across all federal departments to ensure they advance Canada’s national interests in the 21st century. Canada is also improving Trade Commissioner Service for Canadian exporters to provide services that ensure commercial opportunities are consistent with national security. Canada will continue to protect Canadian market access in China while working with clients to diversify within, and beyond, that market. Canada will continue to speak up for universal human rights, including those of Uyghurs, Tibetans and other religious and ethnic minorities. Canada will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Hong Kong, who are faced with China’s imposition of the National Security Law and, more broadly, the deterioration of individual and collective freedoms.
- At the regional level, Canada will balance its approach to China with diversified investments in regional relationships and institutions and a strong vision for the country in the Indo-Pacific region. Canada will work to deepen a variety of partnerships, influence best practices, advance institution building and support a rules-based approach to a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Indo-Pacific region. Canada will also continue to work with partners to push back against any unilateral actions that threaten the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, as well as the East and South China Seas.
- At the multilateral level, Canada will work closely with its partners to face the complex realities of China’s global impact and continue to invest in international governance and institutions. Canada will pursue new solutions to push back against behaviours that undermine international norms, such as arbitrary detention and economic coercion. Where our interests overlap, Canada will partner with China multilaterally, as Canada is doing by co-hosting the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal.
We are investing in deepening our understanding of how China thinks, operates and plans, and how it exerts influence in the region and around the world. In this context, Canada will increase our presence, supporting analysis, consultation, and diplomacy related to China at Canada’s multilateral missions to the United Nations, the European Union and NATO to anticipate and respond to political, economic, and security risks, complementing previous capacity increases to Canada’s China network.
As we forge ahead with a strong, broad-based approach to China, we must always remember to differentiate between the actions of the current Chinese government, with whom we have differences, and the Chinese people. The bedrock of our relations remains the people of Canada and China. The long-standing connections we share and the extraordinary contributions of Canadians of Chinese heritage to Canada will continue to bring diversity and depth to our relationship for decades to come.
While remaining consistent with our One China Policy, Canada will continue our multifaceted engagement with Taiwan, which includes collaborating on trade, technology, health, democratic governance and countering disinformation. Canada will oppose unilateral actions that threaten the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
India’s growing strategic, economic and demographic importance in the Indo-Pacific makes it a critical partner in Canada’s pursuit of its objectives under this strategy. Canada and India have a shared tradition of democracy and pluralism, a common commitment to a rules-based international system and multilateralism, mutual interest in expanding our commercial relationship and extensive and growing people-to-people connections.
In its engagement with India, Canada will:
- grow economic ties, including through deeper trade and investment, as well as cooperate on building resilient supply chains
- seek to expand market access by concluding an Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) as a step toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement
- create a Canada-India desk within the Trade Commissioner Service to promote implementation of the EPTA for businesses and investors looking to enter the Indian market, or for those partnering with Indian businesses
- invest in and connect people, including by bolstering Canada’s visa-processing capacity in New Delhi and Chandigarh
- support academic, educational, cultural, youth and research exchanges
- accelerate cooperation in the fight against climate change, in protecting the environment and in deploying green technologies
- send enhanced Team Canada trade missions in priority sectors of mutual interest, such as renewable energy and clean technology
India’s strategic importance and leadership—both across the region and globally—will only increase as India—the world’s biggest democracy—becomes the most populous country in the world and continues to grow its economy. Canada will seek new opportunities to partner and engage in dialogue in areas of common interest and values, including security, and the promotion of democracy, pluralism and human rights.
- GDP in 2021: $4.0T
- Population in 2022: 1.417B
- World’s most populous country by 2030
Canada and India
- Trade in goods in 2021: $4.6B in imports; $3B in exports
- >650,000 students from India studied in Canada from 2012 to 2021
- Trade in services in 2021: $2.4B in imports; $4.4B in exports
- 1 in 5 recent immigrants to Canada born in India
The North Pacific
The North Pacific is Canada’s neighbourhood, and one of the approaches to the Canadian Arctic. Canada is part of this important region in the Indo-Pacific and can count on long-standing and deepening relationships with Japan and the Republic of Korea, as does the United States. With the world’s third-largest economy, Japan is Canada’s only G7 partner in the region. It is one of Canada’s most important commercial partners and Canada’s largest source of bilateral Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Asia. Canada and Japan are the two largest economies in the CPTPP.
The Republic of Korea is Canada’s seventh-largest merchandise export market, and an increasingly important source of FDI into Canada. Two-way trade continues to grow, facilitated by the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement.
The North Pacific faces growing security challenges, notably from North Korea, as its increasingly frequent and reckless testing of missiles demonstrates. Since the Korean War, when 516 Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice, Canada has never left the Korean Peninsula; rather, it has continuously served, through the UN Command, in support of peace on the peninsula. Today, that includes sustained and persistent deployments of Canadian Armed Forces planes and frigates that monitor activities that are in violation of UN sanctions, and which are aimed to deter nuclear proliferation.
As more goods move from Canada to the Indo-Pacific markets, maritime security and the enforcement of the rule of law are becoming increasingly critical. Canada will build upon existing activities—such as countering illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing through Operation North Pacific Guard—to deepen our cooperation with Japan and the Republic of Korea in this region.
Beyond Canada’s long-standing and steadfast security commitments on and around the Korean Peninsula, Canada has much to offer these democratic partners. Emerging security challenges and supply chain disruptions highlight the need to collaborate on enhancing economic security. Areas of collaboration include opportunities in artificial intelligence, cyber security, energy infrastructure and energy export, critical minerals and electric vehicle battery supply chains, agriculture and agri-food and trade corridor infrastructure.
As part of its Indo-Pacific Strategy, Canada will:
- open new opportunities for security cooperation, including through the negotiation of a General Security of Information Agreement with Japan and, in the future, with the Republic of Korea
- strengthen critical minerals, hydrogen and clean energy sources, positioning Canada as a responsible and reliable energy security partner, by engaging on new opportunities presented by Japan and the Republic of Korea’s increased demand
- work to support and strengthen stability on the Korean Peninsula and, more generally, in the Indo-Pacific
Japan is Canada’s only G7 partner in the Indo-Pacific, where we work closely together on trade as the two leading economies in the CPTPP, on regional development through the Asian Development Bank and on security through bilateral and multilateral operations and exercises. Shared values and interests are the foundation of our broader partnership on global challenges and on strengthening the rules-based international order. Canada will:
- implement the Six Shared Priorities, as agreed to with Japan in 2021, including rule of law, security, global health, energy, trade and climate
- work together with Japan toward sustainable energy and free trade and to address climate change and environmental protection
- conclude the negotiations with Japan for a General Security of Information Agreement between the two countries and help support both defence procurement and broader national security objectives
- work closely with Japan as it undertakes the G7 presidency in 2023 to support its work as it shapes its priorities
- participate in the 2025 World Expo to be held in Osaka, Japan, to showcase Canadian innovation, resources, investment and education to Japan and the broader Indo-Pacific region
The Republic of Korea is a strong democratic partner with which we share bilateral and global strategic interests. Canada and the Republic of Korea are tightly connected through long-standing trade and cultural ties and a history of mutual support. Canada will:
- advance the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreed to with the Republic of Korea in September 2022
- launch a high-level Dialogue on Economic Security as part of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with the Republic of Korea
- work together with the Republic of Korea in support of resilient supply chains, the supply of critical minerals and high labour conditions and environmental protections, including the transition to clean energy
- support the Republic of Korea’s efforts to achieve a denuclearized, peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula
- establish a new annual Canada–Republic of Korea climate change dialogue
Key Partnerships in North Pacific
- GPD in 2021: $6.2T
- Population in 2021: 125.7M
Canada and Japan
- Trade in goods in 2021: $15.5B in imports; $14.5B in exports
- Largest FDI source from the Indo-Pacific in 2021: $35.5B
- Canada’s fourth-largest trading partner in 2021
Republic of Korea
- GPD in 2021: $2.3T
- Population in 2021: 51.7M
Canada and Republic of Korea
- Trade in goods in 2021: $10.3B in imports; $6.3B in exports
- Trade in services in 2021: $406M in imports; $924M in exports
- Canada's third-largest source of international students in 2021
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Canada deeply respects the centrality of ASEAN in the region. ASEAN countries include over 660 million people and many of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Canada will work to deepen its strategic partnership with the organization—which is essential to regional prosperity and stability—and with ASEAN Member States.
- confirm our relationship with ASEAN at the level of Strategic Partner
- seek membership in the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+) and in the East Asia Summit
- augment our contribution to the ASEAN-Canada Plan of Action Trust Fund, which will direct funding toward the priorities determined by ASEAN
- seek to negotiate and implement a Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement and a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Indonesia
- launch a Canadian Trade Gateway in Southeast Asia as a market entry point and catalyst for Canadian businesses to grow their engagement and presence in the region and enhance Canada’s profile as a commercial and investment partner. Canada’s Trade Gateway will expand Canadian business and investment networks, linking businesses to existing incubators and accelerators and increasing their awareness of Indo-Pacific markets, with an emphasis on sectors and solutions where Canadian innovation responds to regional demand
- strengthen Canadian diplomatic presence in the region and increase security cooperation with ASEAN and its members
- continue to recognize and support ASEAN centrality in the region, including by reinforcing alignment between Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
- GPD in 2021: $4.1T
- Population in 2020: 661.8M
- Canada-ASEAN partnership 45 years (1977–2022)
Canada and ASEAN
- Canada's fourth-largest merchandise trading partner in 2021
- $3.7B in Canadian development assistance to ASEAN and its member states since 2000
- $31.6B in bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and ASEAN in 2021
- Canada's was the eighth-largest investor in the region in 2021
- $23B value of 2-way direct investment
- >1M Canadians visited ASEAN countries in 2019
- aerospace and defence
- information and communications technologies
- clean technology
- agriculture and agri-food
Strategic objectives and initiatives
1. Promoting peace, resilience and security
Stability in the Indo-Pacific is essential to global stability. The region is home to numerous security hotspots with potential global repercussions, and Canada must engage as a regional security partner to protect our national interests and security. Canada’s actions are guided by an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of Canadians.
At present, Canadian Armed Forces members contribute to regional stability through stand-alone and multinational operations, such as supporting the implementation of UN sanctions imposed against North Korea through Operation NEON. Canada also contributes to upholding the international law of the sea including the UN convention through forward naval presence operations in the waters of the Indo-Pacific.
China’s rapid and dramatic modernization of the People’s Liberation Army, including its offensive technological capabilities and geographic reach, has caught the region’s attention. As China becomes more assertive and grows in influence, Canada is stepping up as a reliable partner in the region to promote security and stability across the region and at home.
Canada will increase our military engagement and intelligence capacity as a means of mitigating coercive behaviour and threats to regional security.
Working with partners in the region, Canada will increase its security-based engagement in the Indo-Pacific. Canada will deploy additional military assets and increase its investments in border and cyber security, as well as in intelligence. Canada will continue to build cooperative relationships with customs and law enforcement agencies across the region. Working with regional partners, Canada will help strengthen regional defence architectures and deepen our long-standing commitments to women, peace, and security. And Canada will work with our partners in the Indo-Pacific to make our societies more resilient and less vulnerable to the disruptions and shocks that can damage the fabric of our societies. Canada’s Defence Policy Update will support Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and its implementation.
Like countries around the world, Canada is concerned by the rise of coercive and irresponsible use of technology. The spread of disinformation, ransomware and other cyber security threats directly affect Canadians, working to destabilize our democracy and our economy. Canada will take a leadership role in combatting these threats, investing in expertise and technology to better protect all Canadians.
Canada will work hand-in-hand with ASEAN and its member states to ensure full respect for international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, in the South China Sea. Canada will work with allies to boost awareness of the region and enhance resilience and preparedness, as well as to protect against coercive tactics and the theft of sensitive data, technology and intellectual property from our companies and research organizations. The impact of climate change on security amplifies the need to work with regional partners to improve resilience to climate-related disasters. Canada’s military will work with its counterparts and share best practices to improve climate-related disaster resilience.
As an Arctic nation, Canada is conscious that powers in the Indo-Pacific region are looking to the Arctic as a region of opportunity. Canada is committed to maintaining the peace and stability of the region and the safety, health and resilience of Canadian Northern populations and Indigenous Peoples. At a time of accelerating impact of climate change and rising geopolitical competition, Canada will advance its standing as an Arctic power and uphold our Arctic sovereignty and the rules-based international order in our bilateral and multilateral engagement with Indo-Pacific countries on Arctic and polar affairs. We will do so responsibly and sustainably, together with partners.
Canada’s initiatives aimed at promoting peace, resilience and security in the Indo-Pacific will:
- make meaningful contributions to the region’s security and defence and enhance our defence and security relationships with regional partners and allies
- bolster Canada’s long-standing collaboration with, and contribution to, the Five Eyes
- enhance defence cooperation with ASEAN and North Pacific partners
- continue our long-standing contributions to defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, including by supporting the implementation of UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea through participation in current operations, such as Operation NEON, and working side-by-side with our partners to uphold regional security and advocate for North Korea’s denuclearization
Through investment in military operations, training and capacity building, Canada will:
- enhance our security and defence contribution by committing additional resources to the region and increase engagement in international exercises and operations
- augment its naval presence, including by increasing the number of frigates deployed on to the region where it will conduct forward naval presence operations, uphold international law of the sea including the UN convention, and conduct collaborative deployments with its allies and partners
- expand existing military capacity building initiatives and launch new training programs that advance joint priorities and interoperability with regional partners, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, including in the area of Women, Peace and Security
Through investment in intelligence and cyber security, Canada will:
- ensure Canada’s national security and law enforcement agencies, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Communications Security Establishment, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, are appropriately tasked and resourced to support the objectives outlined in the strategy and work in a coordinated fashion to enhance Canada’s public safety and the security of Canadians
- increase resources devoted to protecting Canadians from attempts by foreign states to influence them covertly or coercively
- bolster Canada’s capacity to collect, develop and provide timely intelligence, analysis and assessment to meet national security needs and provide foresight analysis and early warning against threats, such as foreign interference, hostile activities by state actors and economic-based national security threats emanating from the region
- build capacity in the region by dedicating new funding for cooperation, including on borders and law enforcement, cyber-crime, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing
- detect and respond to increasing cyber security threats originating in the region, including malicious activity targeting businesses, industry and infrastructure, and threats to democracy posed by online disinformation campaigns and surveillance technology, including online attacks targeting civil society and human rights defenders
Through investment in science and research, Canada will:
- continue to detect and mitigate risks to protect Canadian post secondary institutions from malign actors who seek to exploit our open society
- increase investment to protect Canada’s innovation and knowledge economy from intellectual property theft
2. Expanding trade, investment and supply chain resilience
Canada is a trading nation. To grow the economy, create good jobs, and keep our competitive advantage, Canada must continue to expand into new export markets and create partnerships abroad. Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy will position Canada for long-term growth and prosperity that benefit all Canadians by enhancing and diversifying our economic relationships with key Indo-Pacific economies.
The Indo-Pacific is the world’s fastest-growing economic region, and its importance will only continue to expand over time. In a world increasingly shaped by tensions, trade is not only an economic but, also, a geopolitical priority. It is also uniquely vulnerable to supply chain disruptions emerging from the region, as demonstrated during the pandemic. In this context, Canada’s economic network needs to be resilient. Canada’s business sector needs to be able to mitigate risk. To do so, diversification is a priority.
We are also witnessing competition to define the rules for trade and technology in the region and for the world. In this context, Canada will work hard to promote rules-based trade in the region, expand trade and digital partnerships and enhance innovation and research. Canada will also increase funding to support inclusive economic growth and start new partnerships to promote trade and develop technologies.
This will support good jobs in Canada and ensure we are meeting the needs of countries in the Indo-Pacific. It is in our national interest to expand trade and investments and to reinforce supply chain resilience.
Emerging patterns of protectionism and economic coercion are of significant concern to Canada. Canada is committed to a trade system that is stable and inclusive, and which creates economic prosperity for everyone. To better position Canada to respond to new geopolitical shocks and bilateral trade barriers, Canada will strengthen our supply chains through new and existing trade and investment agreements; investments in domestic infrastructure that increase trade flows and facilitate stronger business-to-business relationships. Canada will increase its engagement in regard to the shaping of international standards and norms, particularly in the technology sector. This, in turn, will create new opportunities for Canadian businesses and ensure a strong economy for years and decades to come.
To expand Canada’s trade network at home and abroad, Canada will:
- launch a Canadian Trade Gateway in Southeast Asia to expand Canada’s business and investment engagement, and networks in the region; the gateway will focus on sectors and solutions where Canadian innovation responds to regional demand and will enhance Canada’s profile as a commercial and investment partner, creating opportunities for Canadian exporters and attracting foreign investment to Canada
- appoint a new Canadian Indo-Pacific Trade Representative to advance Canada’s regional trade policy, promotion, and economic cooperation objectives in the region
- launch a new series of large-scale Team Canada trade missions that involve Canadian businesses, provinces and territories and other relevant partners and organizations; Canada will showcase the capabilities and competitiveness of its exporters and innovators to ensure their success in the region and facilitate long-term trade and investment opportunities
- provide greater support for Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises, innovators and national industry associations pursuing new trade and investment opportunities in the Indo-Pacific through an enhanced and tailored CanExport program
- support the economic empowerment of Indigenous Peoples through the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPETCA) in cooperation with existing partners—Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan—and Indigenous Peoples from those participating economies
- provide enhanced support to women entrepreneurs to maximize opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region by expanding international partnerships through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy
- open our first Agriculture and Agri-Food Office in the region to help Canadian farmers and producers to diversify their exports and position Canada as a preferred supplier in key emerging markets
- expand the regional mandate of Canada’s development finance institution, FinDev Canada, to the Indo-Pacific. Canada’s commitment to the G7 Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment will be done in an approach that looks to amplify, leverage and collaborate with Canadian private sector and institutions, like pension funds should they choose to, on needed small to medium infrastructure projects across the region. This will support high-quality, sustainable infrastructure, and also provides alternative options to developing economies exploring infrastructure development
To enhance rules-based trade that provides predictability for economies and exporters, Canada will:
- ensure the Trade Commissioner Service provides expert advice on China’s market while promoting export diversification across the region
- strengthen Canadian economic security in reinforcing the Investment Canada Act to defend our national interests, oversee stronger enforcement and add more precautions to protect intellectual property and Canadian research
- continue to work with like-minded partners in the region to counter economic coercion and non-market practices
- work with partners to develop digital infrastructure, promote interoperability and promote coherent regulations affecting the Internet, the digital economy and trust and security in the use of information and communications technology; this will enhance cooperation on standards, norms and regulations that will benefit Canada, the Indo-Pacific region and rules-based trade
- provide greater technical assistance to Indo-Pacific trading partners to improve the enforcement of labour provisions, including on forced labour, in current and future free trade agreements with Canada; this will help protect workers’ rights, ensure companies are respecting human rights in their supply chains and contribute to levelling the playing field for Canadian workers and employers
To ensure the resilience of supply chains, Canada will:
- continue to make significant investments in domestic transportation infrastructure projects through the National Trade Corridors Fund, such as investments in the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, for major upgrades to Canada’s marine, port, airport, road and rail infrastructure, increasing national trading capacity, fluidity and efficiency
- advance shared interests in supply chain resilience with partners, including through greater Canadian involvement and alignment with regional initiatives, such as the Australia-Japan-India Supply Chain Resilience Initiative
- contribute to global supply chain resilience and sustainability by engaging in technical, policy and high-level cooperation through APEC on standards, conformity assessment procedure and best practices to enhance trade
- position Canada to be a reliable supplier of clean energy in the region—and in a net-zero-emissions economy—including critical minerals and hydrogen, to fight climate change, be an energy security partner and support global climate goals
- expand natural resource ties—related to trade, investment and science, technology and innovation—with priority Indo-Pacific partners
- strengthen Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation partnerships with key economies, including Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Singapore and Taiwan, to support international co-innovation projects and commercialization-oriented research and development partnerships for Canadian small and medium-sized businesses with Indo-Pacific partners
To increase export diversification and free trade access, Canada will:
- work with partners to strengthen and expand the CPTPP and ensure that any form of expansion will be based on high standards and track records
- seek to join and meaningfully contribute to the newly established Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity
- improve market access through new comprehensive free trade agreements, such as those currently being negotiated with ASEAN, India and Indonesia, and on new or modernized Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements
- join the Digital Economic Partnership Agreement with Singapore, New Zealand and Chile while securing a cultural-industries exception for the Canadian cultural sector
3. Investing in and connecting people
Canada is deeply connected to the Indo-Pacific region through people. Almost 20% of new Canadians come from the region, close to 18% of Canadians have family ties to the region and 60% of the international students coming to Canada hail from the Indo-Pacific. Students come to study in Canada and often stay to work, to contribute and to join Canadian society. Those who return home forever carry with them the knowledge and experiences gained in Canada.
Indigenous Peoples from across Canada have established ties with Indigenous communities and organizations across the Indo-Pacific on issues as diverse as trade, oceans protections and Indigenous rights. Canada will support Indigenous leaders as they grow and deepen networks in the region across many areas of collaboration.
Investing in ties between Canadians and people from the region lies at the heart of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. For example, Canada will improve its visa-processing capacity to make it easier for families and students to visit. Canada will also continue its investment in cultural diplomacy so that people in the region and Canadians have more opportunities to experience the rich art forms and traditions that inform each country.
Canada is a steadfast partner and is well positioned to provide assistance that is transparent and responds to partner needs through the Feminist International Assistance Policy. Our approach leads to strong partnerships with Indo-Pacific countries and also builds our understanding and expertise. Canada is expanding our feminist international assistance and will continue to defend human rights through partnerships with Canadian civil society and partners in the region.
To strengthen people-to-people exchanges, Canada will:
- bolster visa-processing capacities in key locations in the region to ease access for students and family members; this initiative will enhance visa-processing capacity within Canada’s centralized network, as well as abroad in New Delhi and Chandigarh, India; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Manila, Philippines; these new resources will support ongoing efforts to accommodate the high volume of temporary resident visa applications (including visas, study permits and work permits) from the region
- facilitate travel to and from the region to strengthen people-to-people ties and bolster tourism by using different tools, such as the new and modernized Air Transport Agreements, and explore options to further facilitate travel, making travel to Canada easier, faster and safer for everyone
- leverage its reputation as a top education destination by launching over 1,000 scholarship and fellowship opportunities for Canadian students and for students from ASEAN countries
- strengthen Canada’s international student program with permanent residence and job opportunities for students from the Indo-Pacific that could lead to staying in Canada to contribute to Canada’s future; these investments will attract highly skilled workers to Canada to meet the needs of our economy today and into the future
- ensure that under the Indo-Pacific Regional Engagement Initiative, a broad range of Canadian sector leaders, subject-matter experts, academics and civil society groups will be able to build new networks in the Indo-Pacific, strengthen the Canadian voice on priority issues and create partnerships on behalf of Canada
- invite over 200 Canadian experts to go to the region to support countries that seek to partner with Canada in tackling challenges where Canada has expertise, such as in governance, energy transition and oceans management
- foster greater inclusion of Canadian diaspora communities of Indo-Pacific heritage through expanded cultural initiatives
- fight against anti-Asian racism in Canada, in all its forms, through the full implementation of the federal Anti-Racism Strategy
- pursue the path of reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples through enhanced Indigenous exchanges with regional partners, such as Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan; support education and skills development for Indigenous youth; continue the implementation of the IPETCA; and support the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- support francophone immigration objectives by expanding our diversification efforts in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam—home to 1.3 million French speakers
To strengthen our international assistance, Canada will:
- deepen partnerships in the region by increasing feminist international assistance programming based on partner needs; Canada will help to protect the most vulnerable populations and support work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
- support efforts toward democracy, inclusivity, accountable governance and sustained economic growth, helping key countries in the region
- work with development partners in the region to reduce inequality and contribute to their economic prosperity
- continue to provide critical humanitarian assistance, especially in times of crisis, such as the recent floods in Pakistan
- establish our first international assistance program for the Pacific Islands region, supported by our membership in, and support for, the Partners in the Blue Pacific
- support Canadian civil society organizations through targeted initiatives that will enable them to pursue human-rights and gender-equality projects in the Indo-Pacific and bolster partnerships with their regional counterparts
- help build demining capacity by establishing standards for landmine clearance and accelerate mine-clearing by sharing expertise to support personnel, especially women, engaged in demining activities in Laos and Cambodia
To defend and enforce human rights, Canada will:
- strengthen dedicated Canadian funding and advocacy to support human rights across the Indo-Pacific, including for women and girls, religious minorities, 2SLGBTQI+ persons and persons with disabilities
- leverage Canada’s leadership in multilateral institutions to support regional action on human rights
- work to counter forms of arbitrary detention by hosting a summit on arbitrary detention in 2023
- fully implement the next phase of Canada’s Rohingya Strategy
- support peacebuilding in Sri Lanka and Myanmar and encourage truth seeking and accountability for alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law during the civil conflict in Sri Lanka
4. Building a sustainable and green future
Climate change is a global challenge that requires global solutions. As Canada takes historic climate action at home, it is clear that progress in tackling emissions also requires the full engagement of our Indo-Pacific partners. The Indo-Pacific produces more than half of global emissions and includes many rapidly industrializing economies that will have a significant impact on our shared environment. We need everyone to be part of the solution, and we need to make sure that the move toward a net-zero-emissions economy creates shared economic prosperity.
The same is true in the interconnected work of halting and reversing biodiversity loss, growing sustainable economies and building communities that are resilient in the face of climate change.
The Indo-Pacific is made up of coastal countries. Canada, with shoreline spanning three oceans, is committed to a “blue economy” and has much to share with partners in the region. Canada has significant expertise in underwater mapping and in monitoring oceans through advanced sensing and through real-time satellite images from space—knowledge that is valuable for preserving the health and security of our oceans and valuable for partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
Canada will work with its partners on fisheries, funding sustainable infrastructure, biodiversity protection and conservation, food security and agricultural technology, energy transitions and climate finance. Canada will also share our expertise on natural disaster resilience and recovery and promote clean technology to prevent and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Canada and the Indo-Pacific will face this challenge together.
To support the region in building a sustainable and green future, Canada will:
- expand the capacity for FinDev Canada to support high-quality, sustainable infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific and also provide alternative options to developing economies exploring infrastructure development
- support oceans management initiatives and expand measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Indo-Pacific, including through our Dark Vessel Detection Program, which uses Canadian technology to find illegal fishing vessels and protect fish stocks
- establish a signature initiative in the region on disaster risk and resilience that enables Canada to share expertise and to help countries adapt to, and be ready for, the impacts of climate-induced disasters before, during and after disasters strike
- boost commercial demonstration of Canadian clean technology in priority Indo-Pacific markets and help Canada’s clean technology small and medium-sized enterprises with financial support to break into markets in the region
- build on the already allocated $1.26 billion out of the Canada Climate Finance Commitment toward the Indo-Pacific region to assist partner countries with economic recovery and infrastructure needs and catalyze inclusive and sustainable development through Canadian capital, technology and policy expertise
- prioritize the Indo-Pacific region as part of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which is working to help partners advance their transition from unabated coal power generation to clean energy; Canada will collaborate with partners in the region to support a transition to cleaner energy
- ensure Canada’s international assistance program will target climate and environment action, with the greatest impact based on needs defined locally and related to climate change, energy transition, biodiversity and oceans management
- work with Indo-Pacific countries to prevent plastic pollution from entering the oceans and the environment, reduce plastic waste and better manage existing plastic resources, including by supporting an ambitious, legally binding global agreement to end plastic pollution that addresses the full lifecycle of plastics
- advance Canada’s Global Carbon Pricing Challenge to share expertise on carbon pollution pricing as an important tool to fight climate change and drive investment in clean technologies
5. Canada as an active and engaged partner to the Indo-Pacific
Canada’s overarching priority is to be an active, engaged and reliable partner in the Indo-Pacific. Canada will build influence among our partners and allies in the region by increasing our diplomatic engagement, forging connections between like-minded countries and collaborating in common causes. Through sustained investment and engagement at the highest levels, Canada is increasing and deepening its political, economic and security partnerships, as well as its sustainable development assistance and cultural footprint throughout the Indo-Pacific.
Defending the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific requires a dynamic approach to Canadian diplomacy and engagement. Canada will pursue its cooperation as it always has: as a friend and partner committed to mutual respect; as a proudly diverse country; and as a champion of multilateralism motivated by the idea that our future security and prosperity are best served when all countries—large and small—abide by global and regional rules. Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy continues our long tradition of global and regional commitments tailored to meet the needs of our allies and partners in the region.
To become a more active and engaged partner in the Indo-Pacific, Canada will:
- appoint a special envoy for the Indo-Pacific region to coordinate a whole-of-government approach and manage strategic implementation of the strategy
- recognizing ASEAN centrality in the region, confirm and advance our relationship with ASEAN to the level of Strategic Partner
- seek membership in the ADMM+ and in the East Asia Summit
- increase Canada’s diplomatic presence and engagement in the region through more frequent high-level travel, through more diplomatic representation and by deepening engagement in regional groupings
- strengthen engagement with the Pacific Island Countries by opening Canada’s first mission to Fiji, committing to increased ministerial-level representation at the meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum and contributing concretely as a member of the Partners in the Blue Pacific initiative
- continue to grow its economic and people-to-people ties with Taiwan while supporting its resilience
- deploy Canada’s first diplomatic position in Hawaii to lead engagement with local U.S. and international partners
- bolster the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s engagement in the region by opening an office in the region and through a new range of activities, including seminars, events and research programming related to the Indo-Pacific
- hold the inaugural Canada–United States Strategic Dialogue on the Indo-Pacific in 2023
- increase Canada’s presence—supporting analysis, consultation and diplomacy related to China—at Canada’s multilateral missions to the United Nations, the European Union in Brussels and NATO, to anticipate and respond to political, economic and security trends
Conclusion: Canada’s Indo-Pacific future
Canada is a Pacific nation. The Indo-Pacific is our neighbourhood. Canadians from all backgrounds, all regions and all parts of the economy stand to gain from our deepening relationships with partners around the Indo-Pacific.
The Indo-Pacific will shape the future of our economy, trading relationships, immigration policies, environment and security.
Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy will ensure that Canada plays an active role in shaping this future. It will position us to take advantage of the growing opportunities the Indo-Pacific presents.
Canada is looking out at the horizon of the Indo-Pacific future with a clear view of the shared prosperity that lies ahead for Canadians and for people throughout the Indo-Pacific region. By engaging and investing in partnership, we will secure a better future for all.
We cannot do this without the involvement of Canadians from every sector. This is at the core of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. Together, we can raise our sights, commit to building a better future and make Canada a reliable and engaged partner in the Indo-Pacific.
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