Editorial: Proactive Asian power play needed now

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Recent rogue waves hammering Canada’s transpacific trade outlook should be raising red flags in Victoria and Ottawa.

But there is little sign of leadership on either political bridge. That should concern local business communities because the combination of the U.S.-China Phase 1 trade deal and growing concern over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) bodes ill for Canada’s business leverage in the Asia-Pacific region.

Consider the business side of that combination for starters.

The Phase 1 trade agreement commits China to increasing its imports from the U.S. by US$200 billion over the next two years. Because it is a required purchase of U.S. goods, the commitment will come at the expense of other exporters to China. For B.C., that commitment will hit the province’s highly regarded seafood and fruit exports hard.

With Canada bearing the diplomatic anchor of the extradition court case involving Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou for an America first administration that is hostile to this country’s business interests abroad, politics further erode Canada’s China trade prospects.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has already disrupted transpacific shipping and will increase that disruption as it inevitably spreads.

So rogue waves abound.

But rather than abandon ship and drift into Asia-Pacific backwaters, Canada needs to make a proactive push now to distinguish it and its export products in the wider Asia-Pacific region. As the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada advocates in a recently released report, opportunities for diplomatic and commercial engagement within the Asia-Pacific region have expanded, especially in “middle power diplomacy and economic regionalism.”

So, again, it’s a call for Canada to develop an Asia-Pacific strategy that diversifies its business interests in countries such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

A continued Canadian subservience to the protectionist and politically polarized land to the south will ensure that Canada will never gain control of the economic destiny that the country’s global potential depends on.