ASEAN-Canada business players seek to strengthen economic and trade cooperation

26/07/2023    81

Alternate chair of the ASEAN-Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC), Bernardino “Dino” Vega, has asserted that businesses from ASEAN member countries and Canada are continuously making strides to strengthen economic, trade and investment cooperation.

ASEAN's opportunity for collaboration with Canada: Focusing on digital transformation and trade

ASEAN entrepreneurs are eyeing several sectors to bolster their collaboration with Canada, including digital transformation, trade facilitation and investment. "In the realm of digital transformation, ASEAN-BAC is fully prepared to facilitate investors from Canada and other countries worldwide in connecting with start-ups, technology companies and digital infrastructure firms within ASEAN," stated Dino during the ASEAN-BAC delegation's visit to Canada on July 21.

Dino and the delegation visited Toronto and Montreal from July 18 to 20, as part of Indonesia's leadership roadshow for ASEAN-BAC in 2023. Prior to this, ASEAN-BAC had conducted roadshows in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

 In Canada, the ASEAN-BAC delegation engaged with government officials and businesses. Dino extended a special invitation to government officials and businesses to attend the ASEAN Business Investment Summit (ABIS) 2023 and Asean Business Awards (ABA) 2023, scheduled to be held in Jakarta on Sept. 3 and 4.

During the visit to Canada, ASEAN-BAC aimed to facilitate training programs and knowledge-sharing initiatives among businesses, research institutions and technology hubs in both ASEAN countries and Canada. In Indonesia, the digital transformation has been undertaken by various prominent companies such as PT Astra International, Indika Energy, Sinar Mas, Bakrie Group, East Ventures and Mayora Group.

"We are prepared to educate skilled workers in the field of digital technology and encourage cross-cultural innovation. It is essential to have insights into the legal framework, compliance with regulations and industry trends in each country. Businesses in ASEAN must possess the ability to effectively navigate the complexities of the digital transformation," explained Dino.

The imperatives of encouraging CEPA and fostering trade cooperation

During the roadshow in Canada, the ASEAN-BAC delegation also sought to promote the ASEAN-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and the Indonesia-Canada CEPA (ICA-CEPA). "CEPA needs to be encouraged to ensure that trade activities between ASEAN and Canada, as well as between Canada and Indonesia, can continue to thrive and further enhance," said Dino.

Data from the Trade Ministry regarding trade between Canada and Indonesia show that the total trade value between the two countries reached US$4.28 billion. Canada's main export commodity to Indonesia is cereals with a value of $511.37 million, while Indonesia's primary export commodity to Canada is rubber with a value of $195.34 million. With the expected ratification of the ICA-CEPA, it is anticipated that trade and investment cooperation in areas such as the digital economy, value-added mining products and the education sector will make significant progress.

Meanwhile, chair of ASEAN-BAC, Arsjad Rasjid, stated that in response to the current global economic slowdown, the ASEAN region continues to strengthen economic cooperation as the fifth round of the ASEAN-Canada Free Trade Agreement (ACAFTA) was completed on June 2. These negotiations have achieved substantial progress in discussing 19 trade issues related to goods, services, and investment.

"I am optimistic that these negotiations will be concluded this year," said Arsjad.

Canada is recognized as an important partner for ASEAN in the fields of economy, trade and investment. Indonesia, as a part of ASEAN, serves as a concrete example of a strong relationship with Canada.

"In 2022, Canada was ranked 15th among foreign investors in Indonesia. Canadian investments in Indonesia during the period of 2018-2022 amounted to $964.5 million, spread across 761 projects. This is commendable," explained Arsjad.

On the other hand, Azis Armand, deputy CEO of Indika Energy Group, emphasized that Indika Energy continues to support technology development. "This is in line with the increase in performance efficiency and effectiveness in achieving optimal results. Technology is one of the keys to achieving sustainability," said Azis.

Sinar Mas believes that digital technology advancements present a significant opportunity for a big leap forward. "We must view technology as a chance to leapfrog. In the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, exponential leaps can only be achieved through the implementation of technology," said Franky Oesman Widjaja, chairman and CEO of Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food.

Source: The Jakarta Post