Speech Article from  Global Affairs Canada

Address by Minister Dion to the Fifth Annual Canada-Korea Dialogue Series

June 7, 2016 – Ottawa, Ontario

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with the Government of Canada’s communications policy.

I will start by making a few comments about the imperative of our engagement in Asia in the 21st century, as well as the special role that we see for our relationship with South Korea within the bigger picture.

The importance of Asia for Canada

Geostrategic and economic weights have shifted to a Pacific centre of gravity. Asia is a critical region of the world—and we get it: we are an Asia-Pacific country.

Asia is home to 60 percent of the global population and some of the world’s most dynamic and best-performing economies, including the world’s second- and third-largest economies and six G20 members. It contributes more than 50 percent of global growth.

Asia is a region that is key to the resolution of nearly all major global issues today, including health care, climate change, global finance and poverty reduction.

This is why partnering with Asia is central to Canada achieving its foreign policy, commercial, environmental and development cooperation objectives.

The new Canadian government gets the importance of a heightened presence in the region. We are moving away from a transactional, ad hoc foreign policy in Asia, toward a comprehensive, strategic foreign policy in Asia.

Asia represents more than trade to us

Asia means more than trade to Canada. Canada wants to be a meaningful partner for peace and security in the region, as well as an active partner in multilateral groups in Asia-Pacific, including APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] and ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]. But we also want to partner with Asian counterparts to work toward the global public good.

One of the areas where we want to collaborate closely with regional partners is climate change mitigation and adaptation. The vulnerability of the region to the effects of climate change is daunting, but it also represents an opportunity and indicator of potential future developments. The Paris Agreement reflects a strong commitment by the international community, including Canada and South Korea, to deal effectively with climate change.

Together with Asian partners, Canada will work on climate finance initiatives, promoting clean technology, green infrastructure and sustainable development. In November 2015, Canada made a historic pledge of $2.65 billion over the next five years to support developing countries’ transition to low-carbon economies that are both greener and more resilient, including $300 million to the Green Climate Fund, which is based in South Korea.

Canada and South Korea

Canada and South Korea are particularly well suited for partnership—and friendship—sharing many common interests and values, as well as complementary economies.

Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau met with President Park [Geun-hye] in November 2015, on the margins of the APEC meetings in Manila [Philippines], where I also had the opportunity to meet with my South Korean counterpart, Minister Yun Byung-se, for the first time. I met again with Minister Yun in Geneva [Switzerland], in March 2016, on the margins of the Human Rights Council meeting.

Canada-Korea ties go back a long way. Canadian and Korean soldiers fought alongside each other during the Korean War, to which Canada contributed the third-largest number of soldiers among UN countries. Some 516 Canadians died in the conflict. As you know, Canadian veterans continue to return to South Korea each year to see first-hand the strong and prosperous country that has emerged.

South Korea is an increasingly important partner for Canada, both economically and politically.

As well, Canada and South Korea share strong people-to-people linkages stemming from historical connections, which are enhanced by increasing immigration and tourism flows, as well as student exchanges. An average of 5,664 South Koreans emigrated to Canada annually between 2004 and 2013, contributing to a community of approximately 170,000 Canadians identifying themselves as being of Korean origin.

Over 25,000 Canadians currently reside in South Korea, including about 3,200 language teachers.

South Korea is also an important trade partner for Canada: our seventh-largest.

The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement [CKFTA], which is Canada’s first free trade agreement in Asia, is now in force. My colleague, Chrystia Freeland, the Minister of International Trade, concluded a successful visit to South Korea last week to promote the free trade agreement, which provides increased access to the South Korean market for Canadian companies.

Canada is continuing to collaborate with South Korea to ensure the smooth implementation of the CKFTA, and the first meeting of the CKFTA joint commission is planned for late June.

Canada and South Korea have strong relations in areas such as energy and natural resources, science, technology and innovation. Two of the most exciting areas of collaboration are renewable energy and Arctic research and development.

We share a number of MOUs [Memorandums of Understanding], including between Natural Resources Canada and South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, on clean energy technologies and two on Arctic research.

Korea is an observer on the Arctic Council. Bilateral cooperation on the Arctic is thriving. Joint research in the Beaufort Sea is expected to continue when South Korea’s ARAON icebreaker returns to the region in 2017, and exciting new research is being planned, including potential projects at the new Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

We are also keen to continue expanding this relationship in the area of international assistance. We see South Korea as a promising donor, with strong potential for synergies between the Canadian experience and South Korean connections in the developing world.

Education constitutes another significant component of the Canada-Korea bilateral relationship. South Korea is Canada’s third-largest source of international students: in 2014, over 19,000 Korean students were in Canada for a period of six months or more. As many as 4,000 young Koreans are benefiting from the International Experience Canada program and are working in Canada.

Global perspective

Canada and South Korea share similar views and objectives on a range of global issues, such as UN Security Council reform, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global health security and global economic cooperation.

Regarding North Korea, Canada supports efforts to enhance peace and stability in Northeast Asia and will work with like-minded partners such as South Korea to promote regional security.

Canada is deeply concerned by North Korea’s systematic and gross human rights violations. Canada will continue to call for the respect of human rights in North Korea at the United Nations and in other forums.

Canada strongly condemns North Korea’s provocative behaviour, including its January 6 nuclear test and its February 7 missile launch. Both actions are direct violations of several unanimous UN Security Council resolutions and threaten international peace and security.

Canada co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2270, adopted on March 2, which sends an unequivocal message that the international community is resolved to halt North Korea’s reckless and illegitimate pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. We are actively implementing its new measures.

We will continue to work with international partners such as South Korea to pressure the North Korean regime to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and to address the pressing needs of its people.

Going forward, coordinated international pressure will be needed to compel North Korea to abandon its current course and to resume dialogue aimed at finding a peaceful diplomatic and political solution.


Canada views traditional and non-traditional security issues as areas with strong potential for enhanced collaboration with South Korea.

The collaboration could include more focused policy exchanges or joint programming on cyber security issues, global health security, climate change, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

We look forward to advancing the close and dynamic relationship linking Canada and South Korea.

Thank you.


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