Canadian PM Makes Big Cash Pledges at ASEAN Summit, to Unveil "Indo-Pacific Strategy"

PM Hun Sen sits down in a bilateral discussion with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau prior to attending the ASEAN-Canada commemorative summit in Phnom Penh. Photo: Cambodia PM Facebook

CANBERRA—Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov 12 told Southeast Asian leaders that Canada would soon bring out its own Indo-Pacific Strategy, pledging a considerable amount of funding as a part of its efforts to expand its partnership with ASEAN and strengthen its role in the region.

The announcement was made during Trudeau’s participation in the 45th ASEAN-Canada Commemorative Summit in Cambodia, which hosts the 40th and 41st ASEAN summit and related meetings.

“The Indo-Pacific is a critically important region with major potential to expand trade and grow our economy. Today, I announced steps we're taking in our upcoming Indo-Pacific Strategy, which will create new opportunities for Canadians,” Trudeau wrote in a tweet.

In the same forum, the Canadian Prime Minister also pledged $333 million in new funding to support a series of Indo-Pacific region projects to deepen its engagement and role.

According to a statement released by the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office, the largest chuck of the funding, amounting to $133 million, will focus on feminist development-related projects over five years, namely the Feminist International Assistance Policy Development Funding (IPS), which explores various strategies, mainly through a partnership with regional civil society groups, to support development in the Indo-Pacific and support ASEAN centrality for a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

Moreover, the North American country will make $13.1 million in funding available over five years under the ASEAN-Canada Plan of Action Trust Fund Top-Up. The project allows Ottawa to contribute to narrowing development gaps while boosting regional engagement with ASEAN and trade negotiations. 

Meanwhile, up to $24.1million in funding will be provided through the Canadian Trade Gateway in Southeast Asia (IPS). “The Gateway will provide a modern, dynamic environment for Canadian business leaders to meet as a community, identify common interests, leverage strengths, and promote greater economic cooperation and innovation in the region,” the statement read.  

In addition, Canada will also deliver $14.2 million in funding over five years to bolster education programs through the provision of scholarships to the region while allocating $40 million to support the Indo-Pacific Engagement Initiative, $84.3 million to the Shared Ocean Fund, and $24.5 million to Expansion of the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada.

Canada praises Cambodia's stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

On the sideline of the ASEAN-Canada commemorative summit, Trudeau also held bilateral talks with his Cambodian counterpart, Prime Minister Hun Sen, the current ASEAN chair.

The talks covered various issues related to bilateral cooperation between Cambodia and Canada as well as regional and global challenges such as Ukraine Crisis and Myanmar Crisis. 

“After arriving in Cambodia today, I sat down with Prime Minister Hun Sen – and thanked him for hosting this year's ASEAN Summit. We discussed de-mining efforts in Cambodia and worldwide, and Canada's commitment to working with our Indo-Pacific partners,” Trudeau tweeted.

According to a statement published on PM Hun Sen’s Facebook, Trudeau also thanked PM Hun Sen for inviting him to the ASEAN summits, commending Cambodia for its firm stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and measures to support Myanmar.

“PM Trudeau highlights that ASEAN and Canada have more potential areas of cooperation. Regarding relations with Cambodia, he also notes, long-term cooperation could cover trade, diplomacy, education, and climate change,” the statement read.

Under Trudeau's administration, Canada's foreign policy priority has been to renew Canadian interests and reinvigorate its engagement with Southeast Asian countries, strengthening its active role in the region under the banner of "Canada is back" amidst the rise of China.

It has also sought to join the East Asia Summit (EAS) and ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus.

Canada first received a formal invitation to join the EAS in 2017 as an observer when the Philippines held the ASEAN chairmanship, making Trudeau become the first sitting Canadian Prime Minister to do so.

The EAS has 18 members, including the US, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 ASEAN members.

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