[lg policy] Lamphier: While Australia embraces Asia, Canada dithers

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 6 15:15:33 UTC 2012

Lamphier: While Australia embraces Asia, Canada dithers

By Gary Lamphier, Edmonton Journal November 5, 2012

Lamphier: While Australia embraces Asia, Canada dithers

While the Australian government talks — and acts — as if its economic
future is tied to China and other fast-growing Asian economies, Canada
remains tentative, conflicted and unsure.

The federal government’s protracted review of a proposed $15.1 billion
bid by China National Offshore Oil Corp. for Calgary-based Nexen and
the endless battles over proposed oil pipelines to the West Coast
underline this country’s confused sense of priorities. Canada insists
that it’s open for business and eager to ramp up trade with Asia —
except, it seems, when it isn’t. (Don’t ask the Harper government to
clarify that just yet; it’s still working on it.)

More than a decade after successive Canadian governments began
promoting Vancouver as Canada’s Asia-Pacific gateway, it’s still not
clear whether the banner is anything more than a hollow slogan. (Coal,
lumber and potash exports? Fine. Oil? We’ll get back to you later.)
Australia, meanwhile, has moved well beyond the petty parochial
squabbling and provincial in-fighting that has left Canada looking
confused and amateurish.

“I’m seeing a lot of fear and anxiety about what China may do in
Canada, but when you contrast that with what the Australian media has
said about the rise of Asia, it’s completely different,” says Ng Weng
Hoong, a Singapore-based energy writer. “In Australia, the question
is: ‘How do we manage this?’ Generally their tone is far more

A recently released white paper commissioned by Australian Prime
Minister Julia Gillard’s government — titled Australia in the Asian
Century — shows just how vast the differences in attitude are between
the two resource-rich nations.

“Whatever else this century brings, it will bring Asia’s rise,”
Gillard declares in her forward to the 320-page document, which is
billed as a “strategic framework” to help guide Australia’s growing
economic and cultural ties with Asia.

“The transformation of the Asian region into the economic powerhouse
of the world is not only unstoppable, it is gathering pace. In this
century, the region in which we live will become home to most of the
world’s middle class,” she asserts.

“Thriving in the Asian century therefore requires our nation to have a
clear plan to seize the economic opportunities that will flow, and
manage the strategic challenges that will arise.”

Talk is cheap, of course. Politicians often employ soaring rhetoric
that has little to do with reality. But that’s not the case with
Australia. It has pursued Asian markets for its resources and welcomed
Asian investment at home, with vigour.

Over the next five years, for example, seven Australian liquefied
natural gas (LNG) projects worth a total of $180 billion are scheduled
for completion, The Australian newspaper reports. All are focused on
exporting LNG to Asian markets.

Once completed, the plants will boost Australia’s total exports by an
estimated $41 billion a year, while quadrupling total LNG exports to
85 million tonnes annually, making Australia the world’s top exporter
of LNG. Dozens of other LNG projects are also on the drawing boards,
representing more than 100 million tonnes of additional potential

By comparison, the five LNG projects now proposed for Kitimat on the
British Columbia coast would supply only a fraction of that total. The
B.C. government aims to have three of the plants operating by 2020 —
by which time the window of opportunity may have already closed,
critics say.

But Australia doesn’t merely enjoy logistical advantages. It has also
nurtured closer cultural ties to Asia, says Prof. Kim Richard Nossal,
director of Queen’s University’s Centre for International and Defence

Gillard’s government is even pushing mandatory instruction of Asian
languages in Australia’s school system.

“The Australians have a much more holistic approach to the
relationship between their country and the Asia-Pacific region, and I
think it’s nicely reflected in this white paper,” says Nossal.

“The Australians do have some hestitation about Chinese investment in
some sectors of their economy. But generally speaking when it comes to
resources, the Australians have been very welcoming,” he adds.

As for Canada’s approach to China, Nossal says a lot of work needs to
be done to clarify where Ottawa truly stands.

“The Canadian goal has always been to maximize our trade with China.
But on the investment side there hasn’t been a lot of strategic
thought given to what the rise of China actually means for Canada.”

glamphier at edmontonjournal.com


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