Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced “concrete investments” that he said would pave the way for an ASEAN-Canada free trade agreement (FTA), as part of his government’s commitment to cementing its relationship with the bloc.

Trudeau made the announcement at the ASEAN-Canada Summit held in Phnom Penh on the morning of November 13.

He said ASEAN-Canada relations have significantly grown since 2017, noting that earlier this week his government announced an upcoming launch of its Indo-Pacific strategy aimed at deepening and strengthening its engagement in the region in the long term, putting ASEAN at the centre of the strategy.

“This is a generational shift, and today I’m announcing concrete investments that are part of our commitment to this relationship. Negotiations are underway for an ASEAN-Canada free trade agreement.

“We have so much to offer each other as partners and we look forward to continuing this work together. This is why we're investing in the ASEAN-Canada plan of action trust fund,” he said.

Trudeau added that not only will this help strengthen ASEAN-Canada partnership, but it will support the participation of all stakeholders in ASEAN-Canada FTA negotiations.

To expand Canada’s business and investment networks in the region, Canada will invest in a new Canadian trade gateway in Southeast Asia.

“We want Canadian businesses to know more about Indo-Pacific markets, especially sectors and solutions where Canadian innovation can respond to regional demand,” he said. “This means more jobs and more markets for Canadians and it means more growth for ASEAN countries.”

Trudeau said Southeast Asia and Canada share strong people-to-people ties, noting that Canada is home to some of the largest diasporas of Southeast Asians in the world. “We believe that even closer ties between the region and Canada mean more opportunities for everyone.”

Many Southeast Asian students have contributed to enriching Canadian universities and communities. And to continue supporting them, he said Canada will expand its “successful” Canada-ASEAN scholarship and educational exchanges for development programmes.

“This means that more students from ASEAN member states will be able to get exchange opportunities for study in Canada,” he said.