Chairman's Message

Chairman’s letter

To the Members of CanCham and the International Community,

From a matchmaker’s perspective, Korea and Canada appear to be a perfect fit for each other. They have similar sized economies, shared values, and complementary comparative advantages. Both countries are also well-positioned for the 21st century. Having signed a bilateral free trade agreement over five years ago, it is now time to take the relationship to the next level.

To keep harmonious balance, neither country is out of each other’s league. There is not a disparity in economic power as Canada and Korea are within a whisker of each other in the global rankings, being the world’s 9th and 10th largest economies respectively. There is also a match in terms of beliefs, as they share similar values: with vibrant democracies, market-oriented economies, and a similar strong commitment to the rule of law. The US-based World Justice Project ranks both countries in the top 20 in adhering to the rule of law.

In addition, each country has magnetic leading attributes that they may flaunt. Bloomberg ranks Korea as the top country globally when it comes to innovation, while US News & Reports assesses Canada as the best country in the world overall based on broad factors. Furthermore, in this new era of superpower competition, as each are middle powers living next door to economic mammoths, it is in each country’s respective interests to look after one another to ensure that they are not bullied by much stronger players.

Canada and Korea also have bright futures. Highlighting Canada’s future first, some have forecast that Canada will be a superpower in the 21st century. While many advanced countries face two critical and pressing problems in the decades ahead – climate change and aging demographics - Canada is better positioned than most advanced countries in confronting these looming problematic trends.

Though Canada has implemented progressive policies to fight climate change, Canada stands destined to be a winner from a warming climate according to UCLA emeritus professor, Lawrence C. Smith. The learned professor asserts that as the world warms over the coming decades and as populous developing nations become richer and hungrier, Canada will benefit from its vast lands, which will experience longer growing seasons in a warmer climate, thereby allowing a corresponding productive increase in agricultural output to feed a hungrier planet. Also, as the ice melts in the polar region, the opening of strategic shipping lanes will allow for faster routes between Europe and Asia though Canada’s north.

While the developed world confronts aging and declining demographics, Canada may be the exception among G7 nations given Canadians favorable attitude towards immigration. Canada can therefore continue its open door policy to admit smart, skilled and ambitious immigrants to settle within its borders to offset an aging population. Indeed, there is a high-level initiative in Canada to grow its population through immigration to 100 million people over the 21st century. This sizeable population will have a considerable impact on Canada’s increased influence and presence in global affairs.

Turning to Korea’s bright future, as the economic gravitational center of the world shifts to Asia, Korea is strategically positioned to continue its story as a miracle economy. By 2030, it is forecast that 60 percent of the world’s GDP is to come from Asia due to its growing middle class. With Korea’s operational know-how in the region, surplus of capital, competitive technology and leading conglomerates, Korea stands to prosper as the world realigns to center around the Indo-Pacific region.

Further, due to its circumstances of being natural resource poor, Korea is blessed in today’s knowledge era, having been forced to build its dynamic economy based on human capital. Korea’s human talent, innovation, and ingenuity are keys to wealth and prosperity in the New Economy. Given Korea’s core strengths, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution well underway, Korea is well-suited to compete in industries of the future, devoting one of the highest percentages of GDP in the world into R&D. Korea’s continued strengths in areas like batteries, electric vehicle technology, and semiconductors will pay dividends as the world restructures its industrial model to become more digital and also to combat climate through energy transition.

In light of each country having complementary strengths and appeal, it is high time that Canada and Korea make the commitment to take this match made in heaven to greater heights. There is a saying in Canada, from its most iconic hockey player, and the saying goes that to succeed one must not go to where the puck is, but where the puck is going. Korea and Canada need to go where the puck is going together hand in hand as the world undergoes a massive shift this coming decade.

In 2023, Korea and Canada will celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations. Please stay tuned for some exciting events we have planned!

Robert Laing

Chairman of CanCham