Canada and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Canada became an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) dialogue partner in 1977 and is one of 11 partners with this designation.
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Learn more about Canada's relations with ASEAN.
Overview of Canada's engagement with ASEAN such as trade, investment and international assistance.
Learn more about Canada’s Permanent Mission and ambassador to the ASEAN.
Official Government of Canada news releases, statements and media advisories related to the ASEAN.
The ASEAN is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising 10 member states. Established by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in 1967, it was later joined by Brunei, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The objectives of ASEAN are to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development; promote regional peace and stability, respect for justice and the rule of law; and increase collaboration across a range of economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific, and administrative spheres.
The ASEAN Secretariat, located in Jakarta, Indonesia, and led by a secretary-general, coordinates the work of ASEAN member states and their associated bodies. The ASEAN Secretariat is also responsible for coordinating ASEAN’s relationship with external partners, including Canada.
Canada became an ASEAN dialogue partner in 1977 and is one of 11 partners with this designation. Dialogue partners cooperate with ASEAN on political and security issues, regional integration, economic interests, transnational crime and counterterrorism, disaster risk reduction and other areas.
On September 6, 2023, Prime Minister Trudeau participated in the ASEAN-Canada Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, where ASEAN and Canada officially launched a Strategic Partnership, welcoming a new chapter in the Canada-ASEAN relationship. Establishing the ASEAN-Canada Strategic Partnership recognizes Canada’s expanded presence and growing collaborative relationship with ASEAN, in alignment with Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and our mutual interests.
ASEAN is at the heart of Asia’s regional security architecture, and it represents one of the world’s fastest-growing economic regions. In 2009, Canada appointed an ambassador to ASEAN and adopted the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-Canada Enhanced Partnership. In 2016, Canada opened its dedicated mission to ASEAN and appointed its first dedicated ambassador to ASEAN. Canada has diplomatic representation in all 10 ASEAN member states.
The Canada-ASEAN Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment (2011) provides a platform for regular exchanges of information on opportunities and explores ways to expand and promote trade and investment between Canada and ASEAN such as:
- Providing security assistance to ASEAN member states helping to achieve ambitious integration goals, which contributes to regional peace and security and promotes Canadian foreign policy objectives in Southeast Asia.
- ASEAN member state economies, as a group, represent Canada’s fourth-largest merchandise trading partner (2021). In 2022, Canada-ASEAN merchandise trade reached $40.67 billion.
- More than 35,000 students from the ASEAN region currently study in Canada.
Trade and investment
Canada’s trade and investment in Southeast Asia is expanding quickly—not only in volume, but across many sectors, including oil and gas, mining, high tech, telecommunications, agri-food, financial services, aviation, and consumer goods. On November 16, 2021, Canada and ASEAN launched negotiations toward a Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement (FTA).
Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment
Canada and ASEAN are party to the Canada-ASEAN Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment (JDTI) (2011), which provides a platform for Canada and ASEAN member states to exchange information on trade and investment opportunities and to strengthen commercial engagement.
On November 17, 2021, Canada and the ASEAN member states met virtually and welcomed the initial progress on the realization of cooperation activities under the 2021 to 2025 Work Plan to implement the ASEAN-Canada Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment. The meeting highlighted a number of areas, including the Canada-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Project on ASEAN small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a 5-year project providing technical support to the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSMEs to implement the ASEAN Strategic Plan on SME Development 2021 to 2025.
Negotiations toward a possible free trade agreement
On November 16, 2021, Canada and ASEAN agreed to proceed with negotiations toward a Canada-ASEAN FTA. In order to enhance our commercial relations and strengthen our presence in this fast-growing market, Canada is committed to negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement with ASEAN. This potential agreement would help create new market opportunities for Canadian goods and services, while supporting a more transparent and predictable environment for trade and investment.
Canada and ASEAN have held five Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) meetings at the Chief Negotiator level, in virtual format – in August 2022, November 2022, April 2023 and June 2023. The Fifth round of negotiations took place in a hybrid format, where Chief Negotiators and select leads met in-person from September 25 to 29, 2023 in Indonesia; most other leads met virtually. Officials from Canada and ASEAN also held a Special TNC meeting, in hybrid format, in Bandung, Indonesia in February 2023. Negotiators will meet again in early 2024.
Public consultations on a possible free trade agreement
From September 1 to October 16, 2018, the Government of Canada conducted public consultations through the Canada Gazette to seek the views of Canadians on a possible FTA with ASEAN. Comments were collected in a number of ways, including in writing, by e-mail, and through in-person meetings and teleconferences. While the official consultation period has closed, the Government of Canada remains committed to hearing from Canadians on a possible FTA with ASEAN.
Support for Canadian businesses in the ASEAN region
The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service has offices in Canadian diplomatic missions in each of the 10 ASEAN member states. This network of trade and investment promotion experts works in direct support of Canadian companies active in the region, providing advice and problem solving. In Southeast Asia, trade commissioners are active in many sectors, including:
- defence and security
- extractive industries
- information and communications technologies
- sustainable technologies
- clean technology
The Canada-ASEAN Business Council, based in Singapore, is an industry association focused on advocacy and on increasing private sector linkages among Canadian and ASEAN businesses.
- Together, ASEAN member states have the third-largest population in the world at approximately 660 million-and growing.
- If ASEAN were one economy, it would be the fifth largest in the world with a combined GDP of US$3.3 trillion (2021).
- ASEAN is one of the world’s fastest-growing economic regions, with an estimated real GDP growth rate of 5.6% for 2022 and 4.7% (projected) for 2023 (Asian Development Bank).
- As a group of countries, the 10 member states of ASEAN represent Canada’s fourth-largest merchandise trading partner (2021).
- In 2022, Canada-ASEAN merchandise trade reached $40.7 billion.
Canada’s international assistance
Over the past five decades, ASEAN has achieved significant results in improving the lives of people in Southeast Asia. ASEAN has helped reduce the percentage of people living in extreme poverty and in urban informal settlements, reduce maternal mortality, increase primary school enrolment and increase the percentage of women parliamentarians. Challenges remain, including those associated with natural disasters and rising income inequality across the region.
As Canada works toward finalizing its Strategic Partner status in 2023, it continues to have an important role to play in advancing ASEAN’s community-building objectives under three themes:
Canada’s international assistance to the region helps strengthen the regional policy agenda and reinforces ASEAN institutions, organizations, and networks in addressing shared regional development priorities.
ASEAN regional development program
The regional development program focuses on the following development priorities, which are aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy:
- Developing ASEAN human capital by investing in people, including promoting life-long learning, sustainable economic growth and the protection and rights of vulnerable populations;
- Strengthening ASEAN regional stability by advancing peace and security, gender equality (with a particular emphasis on women’s empowerment) and disaster management.
Canada’s ongoing development initiatives include the ASEAN-Canada Plan of Action Trust Fund, Tripartite Action for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers in the ASEAN Region, Empowering Women for Sustainable Peace, strengthening ASEAN’s response to COVID-19 and improving ASEAN member states’ gender-responsive humanitarian assistance. Global Affairs Canada also has a project with the ASEAN Secretariat on the Mitigation of Biological Threats in the ASEAN region. Canada’s international assistance is aligned with the ASEAN community-building objectives and the ASEAN-Canada Action Plan (2021 to 2025). Under this plan, Canada and ASEAN are building on the progress made under the previous plan and pursuing areas of mutual interest, including in political and security, economic, socio-cultural and sustainable development cooperation.
The ASEAN regional development program works closely with ASEAN stakeholders, including the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN member states, partners, donors and Canada’s bilateral missions in all 10 ASEAN member states.
Scholarships and educational exchanges for development
In 2017, the Government of Canada launched a $10-million scholarship program—the Canada-ASEAN Scholarships and Educational Exchanges for Development (SEED). The program aims to build the capacity of students and mid-career professionals to address development challenges in the ASEAN region.
The scholarships are for short-term studies (up to 2 academic sessions or 8 months) or research in Canada in fields that are relevant to ASEAN’s efforts to narrow the development gap and reduce poverty in Southeast Asia.
To date, 473 students from the ASEAN region have successfully completed a study or research exchange in Canada through the scholarship program.
For more information on scholarships and the application process, please visit Canada-ASEAN Scholarships and Educational Exchanges for Development.
- Canada’s support for ASEAN to address the COVID-19 pandemic is helping to ensure ASEAN member states can better detect, control and prevent COVID-19 transmission.
- In addition to the regional development program, Canada has bilateral development programs in Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam.
- Since 2000, Canada has provided $4.4 billion in development assistance to the ASEAN region, including bilateral assistance to ASEAN member states and regional development assistance.
The Permanent Mission of Canada to the ASEAN in Jakarta is the primary channel for diplomatic representation and communications between the Canadian government and the ASEAN.
List of official Government of Canada news releases, statements and media advisories related to the ASEAN.
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