The annual poll examines Canadian attitudes toward Asia. This year’s results indicate a diminishing sense of urgency in Canadians’ perception of the importance of deepening relations with countries in the region. 11% of Canadians see Canada as part of the Asia Pacific region, while 18% had this perception last year. The reluctance to engage more closely with Asian economies, especially China, is primarily due to economic matters. A strong majority of respondents are opposed to direct investment from China (76%), India (72%) and Japan (58%). However, with regards to building cultural ties with Asia through exchanges, education agreements and development assistance, the numbers are pointing to a desire for stronger engagement.
“The conflicted attitudes of Canadians make for a more difficult environment to deepen political and economic ties with Asia,” said Mr. Yuen Pau Woo. “There is a need for stronger leadership on Asia from government, business and civil society. This will only happen if ‘Asia strategies’ are a priority and if organizations invest in the skills, knowledge and experiences that are needed to be successful in Asia.”
The Canada-Asia Conference currently happening in Vancouver aims to address these issues and promote economic, political and cultural relations with Asian nations. The challenges are many and, given the priorities of our current government, discussions at the conference will likely raise legitimate concerns on the issues of energy relations with Asia. Canadians are increasingly divided on this theme1, but the importance for Canadian businesses to keep an eye on the Chinese market remains first and foremost a question of opportunities that can be seized or ignored at the benefit (or cost) of our economic sectors.