National Newswatch

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the spectre of gnarled global supply chains in a bid Sunday to a bloc of Southeast Asian nations to win them over on a free trade deal.

Trudeau has long sought a trade deal with the 10-nation bloc, which includes the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

He told a virtual business summit organized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that a free trade agreement with Canada would be a "win-win" for all sides, particularly coming out of the pandemic.

Speaking in a pre-recorded message, Trudeau argued that an agreement with ASEAN would help companies and entrepreneurs build connections and business relationships around the world. 

He also said a pact would give investors more confidence to invest in international markets, and protect supply chains from the uncertainties brought by COVID-19.

Trade bottlenecks across the globe have been slower to recover than consumer demand for goods, and slowed further by ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks and public health measures.

All this affects inventories of in-demand consumer products or the delivery of parts needed to build things like cars, and pushes up transportation costs that get passed on to consumers, which is reflected in higher inflation rates.

"As we finish the fight against COVID-19, deepening our ties with ASEAN economies and diversifying trade across the Asia-Pacific will play a crucial role in our recovery," Trudeau said in his address. 

"My friends, a strong Canada-ASEAN relationship is a clear win-win for all of our businesses and all of our people."

The economies of the 10-nation bloc as a group represent Canada's sixth largest trading partner, but the country already has access to four ASEAN members — Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam — through a Pacific Rim trade pact known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The Liberals' election platform promised a new hub to help businesses take advantage of opportunities under CPTPP, and a new Asia-Pacific strategy aimed at deepening ties in the region, including new trade deals.

A preliminary analysis by ASEAN and the federal government on the merits of a free trade deal estimated Canadian exports of goods and services to the bloc could go up by 13.3 per cent, valued at US$2.67 billion

In his address, Trudeau said both sides must also ensure women, Indigenous people, LGBTQ entrepreneurs, visible minorities and other under-represented business owners get involved in and benefit from trade.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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