As Canada and Korea celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic
ties, the relationship is at a crossroads.
There is a sense of crisis. After decades of success and mutual
benefit, the relationship has lost much of its energy.
This was the conclusion of a recent meeting of the Canada-Korea
Forum, a non-governmental group of Koreans and Canadians that
confers annually on the state of relations and how governments,
businesses and citizens might derive further benefit from them.
Canada has been important to Korea. It has supported Korea's
growth as a source of resources and a market for its manufactured
goods. It has encouraged its emergence as a free and democratic
country. It has served as Korea's second 'gateway' to
Korea has been important to Canada. It has been one of
Canada's largest trading partners, and a principal market for
its commodities. It has been a source of investment. It has sent us
a dynamic community of new Canadians. It has been a key
'gateway' for Canada to the Asia Pacific.
Times change. Conditions change. We must now find a new paradigm
for the relationship that reflects the changes in Korea's place
in the world as a developed country, and Canada's current
interests and strengths as a bilateral partner and major
The starting point is our economic relationship. This has been
the backbone of Korea-Canada ties. It must be strengthened and
re-energized through conscious efforts by governments and
For this to happen, Canadian and Korean governments must finally
conclude their Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Fortunately,
Prime Minister Harper and President Park recently agreed this
should be done by the end of 2013. This will create an updated
foundation for a 21st century trade and investment relationship. It
will re-vitalize business interest in growing commercial ties.
If these efforts fail, the prospects are dire. Other countries
with FTAs with Korea and Canada will enjoy more advantageous terms
in these markets. Bilateral trade will decline. The trust and
interest built up in past decades will erode. Inevitably, this will
negatively affect other areas of our economic relationship as well
as on our political ties.
In the new formula for Canada-Korea relations, the energy sector
stands out as never before. Major complementarities exist over the
Both countries should formally elevate energy sector cooperation
to the rank of a "principal interest". Governments should
put in place undertakings that recognize this long-term objective
and that encourage/facilitate private sector ventures. These
arrangements could be linked to or included in the FTA under
Another historical pillar of the Canada-Korea partnership has
been our shared concerns for international peace and security.
On this 60th anniversary of the armistice ending the Korean War,
Canada remains fully committed to supporting the Republic of Korea
in dealing with the North Korean threat.
This cooperation can now be expanded as Korea's President
Park broadens her country's involvement in security matters
outside the Peninsula. As developed democracies of similar economic
weight, Canada and Korea should be able to work together as
Our two governments could announce an initiative to determine
how best Canada and Korea can cooperate in areas of greatest mutual
interest and potential effectiveness, starting with Asia Pacific
security issues. This could include cooperation in humanitarian
assistance, crisis response, and making regional governance more
effective in the security domain.
Korea and Canada could also inaugurate regular '2 x 2′
talks (foreign and defense ministers) along the lines of those
recently established between Korea and Australia. These talks would
also treat global security issues where Canada is well informed and
engaged and where Korea seeks to increase its role.
Our ideas for working together need not stop here. Our new
relationship could also include specific areas of common interest
such as nuclear safety, collaboration in the Arctic, and fostering
technology and business tie-ups in promoting green growth (a Korean
priority) and energy efficiency.
Looking ahead, Korea and a Canada can continue to provide each
other with 'gateway' partnerships — linking the
dynamism of Korea and Asia with the strengths of Canada and North
American business — that promote economic growth and
prosperity for our citizens, build a safer world, and ensure a
strong global economy with effective governance systems.
This outcome is not assured. It will take major effort, renewed
commitment and a readiness to make occasional compromises. And it
has to start with the successful completion of a Free Trade
Agreement. It's that simple.
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