Saturday, June 08, 2013

Canada’s engagement with Asia is overdue

Defense Minister MacKay, left, with Chang Wanquan
If Canada is to have any influence politically in the Asia-Pacific, its pivot must include more than just military talks with China 

For a Pacific country, Canada has been a relative latecomer to the Asia-Pacific. But if this week’s visit to the region by Defence Minister Peter MacKay is any indication, the government may finally be taking the first steps in engaging a part of the world will be hugely significant for our nation’s security in the future. 

Up to the present, Canada’s principal focus in East Asia has been economic, with little effort by Canada to play a more active, if not significant, political role within a region that, quilt-like, is an mixture of liberal democracies and repressive authoritarian regimes, and where simmering conflicts have the highest likelihood of sparking a major — possibly nuclear — war. Tellingly, it is also the only region where military spending has been rising. 

For those reasons, and given the implications for Canada’s trade relationships as well as the safety of its citizens based in the region, a reorientation to the Asia-Pacific, both institutional and psychological, is long overdue. Canada can no longer afford to treat major political issues in Asia as if the outcomes were of negligible import to our nation. Nor can our universities, government agencies, and think tanks continue to remain fixated on the Americas and Europe. 

My op-ed, published today in the Ottawa Citizen, continues here.

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