What the rise of Asia means for Canadians – by John Ibbitson (Globe and Mail – September 24, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — When Canadian, Asian and American leaders and thinkers meet in Ottawa this week to discuss this country’s place in the new Pacific century, many in the room will not like what they hear. Global leadership is pivoting from the West to the East faster than anyone could have imagined. Canada’s future – and your job – hinge on pivoting with it.

“Canada has been obsessed with the United States and Europe for the past 200 years. Now, frankly it has got to shift its focus to Asia,” Kishore Mahbubani said. The Singaporean academic, who is recognized globally for his writings on the Asian renaissance, is speaking at the conference, organized by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.

Such a shift “requires a major psychological reorientation on the part of Canadian minds,” Mr. Mahbubani observed. “But if they don’t wake up, they’ll be left behind.”

The conference takes place in the wake of a proposal, reported in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, from Chinese ambassador Zhang Junsai that Beijing and Ottawa begin work on a free-trade agreement.

In an interview that was as remarkable for its candour as its scope, Mr. Zhang dismissed the suggestion that Canada might have difficulty deepening trade ties with a country in which a nominally communist government shunned democratic freedoms and managed much of its economy through state-owned enterprises.

That government, he said, had taken 300 million people out of poverty and created the world’s second largest economy in only two decades.

“Give us a break. Let us develop,” he urged. “…Our system is ours. It has nothing to do with Canada. And vice versa.”

The Harper government’s reaction to the Chinese overture was muted.

“We haven’t made any decisions yet,” Foreign Minster John Baird said Sunday, when asked by Global TV’s Tom Clark about whether Canada was ready to talk free trade with China.

Given the different economic systems and record on human rights, “a free-trade agreement with China would be very fundamentally different from that which we have with the United States or the one we’re negotiating now with the European Union,” he said.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/what-the-rise-of-asia-means-for-canadians/article4562851/