Canada takes another strategic step in the Asia-Pacific region: exploratory free trade agreement talks agreed to with ASEAN nations

News Release

September 8, 2017 - Ottawa, Canada - Global Affairs Canada

Canada is further deepening its strategic economic relationship with Asia-Pacific nations, which offer enormous potential for Canadian businesses and opportunities to create good-paying jobs for Canada’s middle class. 

Exploratory discussions on Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement

At today’s 6th ASEAN Economic Ministers-Canada Consultation in Manila, representatives of all 10 ASEAN member states and Canada together agreed to launch exploratory discussions to determine the potential for an ASEAN-Canada free trade agreement. Canada is a Pacific nation and is stepping up its strategic commitment to trade diversification by expanding influence and economic footprint in this burgeoning, high-growth region. Canada has taken significant steps to bolster its influence within ASEAN, including by establishing a diplomatic presence in all 10 ASEAN member states and appointing a permanent ambassador to the organization itself. This announcement marks another important milestone in the Canada-ASEAN economic relationship.

New Canadian representative to APEC Business Advisory Council

Further building on Canada’s relationship with the Asia-Pacific region, the Government of Canada today announced the appointment of Ralph J. Lutes, Vice President, Asia, for Teck Resources Limited, to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). Mr. Lutes successfully competed in an open, transparent and merit-based process. He will play a key role in representing the interests of the Canadian business community throughout the Asia-Pacific region. ABAC provides a crucial interface between Canadian business leaders and their counterparts from APEC member economies, enabling dialogue on issues related to trade and economic cooperation.


“Canada is a Pacific nation and is pursuing a comprehensive, strategic and progressive trade agenda throughout the region. An enhanced economic partnership with ASEAN will create good middle-class jobs and benefit our small and medium-sized enterprises by providing clear, stable and progressive rules of conduct so businesses can grow and expand in one of the world’s fastest-growing and most dynamic markets.”

- François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade

“As one of Canada’s representatives to the APEC Business Advisory Council, Ralph Lutes will play an important role in increasing Canada’s trade and economic cooperation with APEC and promoting progressive trade policies that benefit everyone.”

- Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Quick Facts

  • ASEAN is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising 10 member states: Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

  • In 2016, Canada-ASEAN merchandise trade reached a value of $21.6 billion.

  • ASEAN is one of the world’s fastest-growing economic regions, with a GDP estimated at over $3.1 trillion in 2015.

  • The Philippines is the chair of ASEAN in 2017 and is responsible for coordinating ASEAN’s overall relationship with external partners, including Canada.

  • This year marks the 40th anniversary of Canada’s status as a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN. Canada is one of only 10 countries with this important level of partnership.

  • APEC’s 21 members are home to nearly 2.9 billion people who generate 60% of the world’s GDP and accounted for 84% of Canada’s total merchandise trade in 2015.

  • APEC includes four of Canada’s top five trading partners: the United States, China, Mexico and Japan.

  • ABAC brings together business and political leaders from APEC member economies who are focused on increasing trade and economic cooperation. Canada’s ABAC representatives are Suzanne Benoît, President of Aéro Montréal (appointed in 2015) and Ralph J. Lutes, Vice President, Asia, of Teck Resources Limited (appointed in 2017).

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