ASEAN Secretary-General H.E. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan is currently on an official visit to Ottawa and Toronto in response to an the invitation from the Hon. John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada. The 19-22 September 2012 visit is part of the commemorative activities for the 35th Anniversary of the ASEAN-Canada dialogue cooperation.
During his visit, Dr. Surin paid a courtesy call to the Hon. Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade; Hon. Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation; Hon. Peter G. Mackay, Minister of National Defence; and Hon. John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs. In a cordial discussion with the Ministers, SG Dr. Surin convey ASEAN’s appreciation for Canada’s interest and commitment to strengthen ASEAN-Canada Dialogue Relation and encourages Canada to further promote two way cooperation on ASEAN landscape in Education, Trade, and Investment in the areas of clean and green technology, national resources, food and energy security as well as in Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). Dr. Surin stressed that Canada has strong potential in soft power, multiculturalism and rich experience in the areas of peace keeping and peace building, human rights, democratic and good governance. Canada could make its presence in the ASEAN region felt stronger through investing in its high quality education as a trading commodity as done by other developed countries. Canada’s investment in high quality education would contribute to people to people connectivity—helping ASEAN to build up capacity for its young business leaders as well as its community.
ASEAN, a market of 600 million people and a combination of ten boutique economies, with rising middle class and growing purchasing power; could be a good market and opportunity for Canada to promote its presence and investment. Dr. Surin also initiated an approach of facilitating ASEAN-Canada fellowship Research Programme, which could give a recognition to the work of young researcher of both ASEAN and Canada to establish their linkage to shape up the future leaders and people. During his courtesy calls, Dr. Surin also urged the Ministers to give a recognition to the ASEAN Committee in Ottawa (ACO), which is one of the effective ASEAN bodies working as the far-reach feeler of ASEAN abroad. He stressed that Canada could interact with ASEAN as a group thus it helps promote ASEAN to response as a group to every issue.
Dr. Surin also gave a lecture at the Canada International Development Research Centre (CDRI) emphasizing on the ASEAN in the rise and a place for Canada in the region; stressing on promoting soft power, and cooperation and investment in the areas of education, SMEs, multiculturalism, ect. The talk aroused a wide range of reaction from the audience, particularly on the establishment of education linkage in the region.