Nikkei Asia | 6 December 2022
Canada’s IPEF bid has support from all members: trade minister
by TOMOYOSHI OSHIKIRI
TOKYO — Canada’s bid to join the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework has the backing of all current members, the country’s trade minister said Monday, expressing optimism about the prospects of participating in the U.S.-led regional partnership aimed at countering China.
"We’ve talked to all of the countries that are in the IPEF," Mary Ng, the trade minister, told Nikkei during a visit to Japan. Not just the U.S. and Japan "but all of the other countries are also positive of Canada joining as well."
The Indo-Pacific has become a greater foreign policy priority for major economies like Canada, which released a comprehensive economic and diplomatic strategy for the region last week.
"By 2030 ... one-third of the global middle class is going to be in the Indo-Pacific region," Ng said, adding that "this is the time for us to deepen the relationship and to grow in the Indo-Pacific because it has tremendous opportunity for Canada."
Ottawa in October announced its intent to participate in the 14-member framework hatched by U.S. President Joe Biden. The members held their first face-to-face cabinet-level meeting in September, focusing on four pillars: trade, supply chains, "clean economy," including emission reductions and energy security, and "fair economy," which includes combating corruption.
Canada would be the third Group of Seven nation in the framework, along with the U.S. and Japan. Other members include South Korea, Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines.
Ng gave no specific time frame for joining, but said Ottawa hopes to do so "as soon as we can."
Canada is already part of the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a broad regional trade pact to which several IPEF members including Japan belong. But Ng indicated the IPEF would offer advantages of its own, such as bolstering supply chains.
"The IPEF is very complementary to Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy, where we are looking to grow and deepen the relationships and the trade and investment opportunities in the region," she said.
Canada expressed serious concerns about the impact of China’s rise in the region in the new strategy. Asked about the relationship with China, Ng noted areas such as climate change where Ottawa should cooperate with Beijing.
But "there will be other circumstances where we will need to challenge China, and in other cases we will compete with China," she said, noting that on "issues like human rights, we’re going to stand up for our values."
Ng gave no direct opinion on China’s bid to join the CPTPP.
"What’s really important for Canada is that the highest standards are met," she said, and that would-be members "have a good track record of meeting their trade obligations."
Ng emphasized the importance of partnering with Tokyo to "build more secure supply chains and create more resilience between our two countries."
Canada "absolutely" plans to increase energy exports to Japan, she said. Ng added that "we believe that Canada can be a reliable energy supplier."
Canada also plans to collaborate with Japan on electric vehicles, she said, noting its reserves of metals essential for battery production such as cobalt and lithium.