|Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne speaks during a meeting at the Federation of Korean Industries headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, Friday. Minister Champagne said Korea and Canada can be great partners for each other in dealing with challenges such as energy security, food security and supply chain resiliency. Courtesy of FKI|
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Canada can be Korea's solution to energy security, food security and supply chain resiliency, according to Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne, Friday.
Champagne, who has extensive experience in foreign affairs and international trade, said during a meeting with Korean businesspeople and scholars at the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) that Canada is "blessed with critical minerals, infrastructure and energy" and willing to share those resources to ensure peace and security in the region.
"I think now it's time to really realign our supply chains in a way that they will be more resilient. And I feel there's a big willingness on Korean partners to really engage with Canada because Canada has what Korea needs these days for the economy of the 21st century… Canada makes sense for Korean industry and Korean companies because you want to have the partner of choice when it comes to stability and predictability," he said.
Champagne listed five strengths of Canada that provide competitive advantages to the country ― its talent, ecosystem, precious metals, renewable energy and access to the market.
"The first thing is talent... Canada has kept its border open and we've been a magnet for talent. And today it's a defining moment, whether it's AI, quantum, cybersecurity or clean technology. We are still able to attract some of the best talent in the world and that is making a huge difference today," he said.
"We have a very strong ecosystem to be able to partner with our Korean friends. The third thing is critical minerals, and I would say proximity is everything ― proximity to resources, to assembly lines and to markets."
In terms of renewable energy and the green economy, the minister said the world needs to decarbonize all industries, whether it's green steel, green aluminum, green plastic, green batteries or green semiconductors.
"We will build electric, green cars for the world and I think that's a huge opportunity between our two countries… We are living in a world where we want to decarbonize our economy and Canada is a leader. (Canada) wants to be your green supplier of choice," he said.
"The fifth is access to the market. I never say that Canada is a country of 30 million people. Canada is a country that gives you market access to 1.5 billion consumers in the world. Canada is the only G7 country which has a free trade agreement with all other G7 nations," Champagne said.
|Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne, left, shakes hands with Federation of Korean Industries Vice Chairman and CEO Kwon Tae-shin during their meeting at FKI headquarters on Yeouido, Seoul, Friday. Courtesy of FKI|
The minister believes that with those five elements, Korea and Canada can become real strategic partners for each other.
"I think at a time where there's more and more turmoil around the world what we need now is to build resiliency and we can choose to put our supply chain in line with our values. And that's really what I commend that we can do more together so that we are more resilient and we can certainly prepare our economy to be resilient," Champagne said.
He also noted that Canada and Korea together can become a global powerhouse, when Korean ingenuity meets Canada's manufacturing innovation.
"Think of Canada as the solution to the challenge of tomorrow's economy. Think of Canada as your trusted partner. Let's seize the moment, let's be ambitious and let's bring our relationship to its full potential," he said.
Canada is expected to announce its new Indo-Pacific strategy soon, and Champagne said what has been happening in recent months is in fact the country's Indo-Pacific strategy in action. He cited Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's visit to Canada and meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in September as well as his own visit to Korea being packed with meetings with the Korean government and private sector.
The innovation minister said he recognizes criticism from the country's partners and allies in the region, particularly South Korea, that Canada has not been consistent with its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.
"(People say) 'Can you just come and stay?' And our answer is yes... Because we realize that we can do that together, that the things you care about are things that we care about. The things you need are the things we have. The things you want are the things that we wish to have as well," he said.
"So when you have that framework with the vision, I want to commend Prime Minister Trudeau with that vision that we need to reengage significantly in the Indo-Pacific. And I think you'll all be pleased to see that, because the strategy will be well-received by our partners and allies in the Indo-Pacific region."
Champagne also said he hopes to take Korea-Canada relations to the next level on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries next year as well as Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's visit to Korea, planned for the second quarter of next year.