Since 2008 the government of Canada has looked with increasing favour on trade and investment from the Asia-Pacific, and China in particular, overcoming notable skepticism with particular relevance to the human rights portfolio between 2006 and 2008. Canada quickly seized on economic opportunities in the new strategic environment, especially through its Pacific Gateway strategy (Asia-Pacific Gateway, 2006).
After visiting China for the first time in 2009, in 2010 Prime Minister Stephen Harper reaffirmed the “strategic partnership” established under Prime Minister Paul Martin Jr. in 2005 that he had avoided since assuming office in 2006 (PMO 2010; Jiang 2011). The Government of Canada has moved to facilitate and encourage projects aimed at energy exports to Asia, and further, announced its intention to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership endorsed by the US (Dawson, 2012; Geist 2012). Canada has yet to respond positively to a Chinese offer to begin negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement,and has only belatedly and quietly ratified a Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) that was a Canadian initiative hailed by the PM and signed in 2012 (Simpson, 2013; Metro, 2013).
Unlike Canada, the US and Australia (Atlantic 2012; Australia 2012) have addressed the political and security concerns implied by the rise of the Asia-Pacific. The US announced a “rebalancing” commonly called a“pivot towards Asia”(Kitfield, 2012; Congressional Research Service 2012). Australia produced a White paper to address the economic and political concerns of its relationship with Asia. (Australia 2012; Manicom and O’Neill, 2012) The US maintains annual cabinet level consultations that combine bilateral economic and security concerns in the US-China Strategic and Economic dialogue (Glaser, 2013). The US and Australia have jointly reviewed and enhanced their security relations in light of developments (New York Times, 2011; Dobell 2011). Since 2005, roughly the period when the international balance changed, there has been no comprehensive foreign policy and defence review undertaken by the Canadian government (Canada 2005). A number of voices have called for such a review (Welsh 2010) and for the Asia Pacific to play a central role in Canadian strategy (Open Canada 2010; McDonough, 2012).
Where a changed strategic environment has eroded past advantages, Canada enjoys offsetting opportunities to maintain its position as a ‘principal power’ (Paltiel 2011). It fronts the region whose dramatic rise has changed the global balance (Paltiel 2013; Paltiel 2012). Second, Canada is a resource-rich country that provides the resources needed to fuel the rise in Asian manufacturers (Jiang, 2011). Third, Canada is untainted by a history of imperialism and colonialism that in Chinese eyes forms the essential backdrop to its strategic drive. Fourth,Canada is warmly acknowledged by the People’s Republic of China as being in the forefront of nations that opened the door for it on the international state. Fifth,Canada’s inclusive and welcoming immigration policy together with a doctrine of multiculturalism bequeath significant participation of Canadians of Asian background and Chinese background in particular in all aspects of national life that can form a trans-Pacific bridge of commerce, communication and mutual understanding (Zhang 2011). These are acknowledged by policymakers, but remain to be packaged and arrayed to meet overall challenges facing Canada’s foreign policy.