Canada, ASEAN Begin Free Trade Talks

Canada and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are launching formal negotiations for a potential free trade agreement (FTA).

Canadian trade minister Mary Ng announced earlier this week during a virtual consultation with ASEAN economic ministers that dialogues will officially open for a comprehensive FTA between Canada and the bloc.

The possibility of a Canada-ASEAN FTA was first explored in 2017 but was only reconsidered after the Canadian government launched a public consultation in September this year regarding the agreement.

The Canadian government reported last month that the consultations showed that the country’s industries generally approved of a potential FTA.

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the global economy, bilateral trade relations between ASEAN Member States and Canada remain strong,” ministers agreed in a joint statement.

Canada already has access to Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam through the Trans-Pacific trade agreement (CPTPP) and a direct FTA with ASEAN will open up three other large markets — Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a business forum last month that Canada has been pursuing a trade deal with ASEAN to allow the country to recover from the pandemic, and that the deal would be a “win-win” situation for both parties.

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