A NEW SE­NA­TOR WITH ASIAN ROOTS

New ap­pointee be­lieves China’s rise is re­shap­ing global economics, pol­i­tics and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By NA LI in Toronto re­nali@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

It’s no sur­prise that Yuen Pau Woo, the for­mer head of the Asia Pa­cific Foun­da­tion of Canada, was ap­pointed to be one of nine in­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors by Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau late last month.

As a third-gen­er­a­tion Chi­nese from China, Woo was born in Malaysia and raised in Sin­ga­pore. He went to Bri­tish Columbia at the age of 16 on a schol­ar­ship and even­tu­ally im­mi­grated to Canada.

Over the past 28 years, Woo has worked on pub­lic pol­icy is­sues from coast to coast, with a spe­cial em­pha­sis on Canada’s re­la­tions with Asia. He has also been a spokesper­son for Bri­tish Columbia and Canada in the Asia Pa­cific.

The 53-year-old Woo now serves as pres­i­dent of HQ Van­cou­ver, a pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ship es­tab­lished to pro­mote Bri­tish Columbia as a head of­fice location for global firms.

Woo has also con­trib­uted to Canada’s in­ter­na­tional economic pol­icy and for­eign af­fairs through teach­ing and schol­arly re­search, con­sul­ta­tions with se­nior of­fi­cials, busi­ness and com­mu­nity lead­ers and pub­lic ad­vo­cacy.

“I was very pleased and honoured to re­ceive the news of my nom­i­na­tion,” Woo told China Daily. “When I read the bios of the other can­di­dates, I was hum­bled to find my­self in the com­pany of such in­ter­est­ing and ac­com­plished in­di­vid­u­als from across Canada.”

Al­though this ap­point­ment has trig­gered some crit­i­cism, since Woo ad­vo­cates for closer Canada-Asia — espe­cially Canada-China — re­la­tions, many think Woo’s ap­point­ment is in fact a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to Canada’s economic in­ter­ests.

“Woo will help BC and the rest of the coun­try take ad­van­tage of the huge shift in the global econ­omy to­wards Asian mar­kets,” said Greg D’Avi­gnon, pres­i­dent of the Busi­ness Coun­cil of BC.

David Emer­son, who served in the cab­i­net un­der Lib­eral Prime Min­is­ter Paul Martin and then Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper, also praised Trudeau’s se­lec­tion. “His Asia skills and knowl­edge base will serve the Sen­ate and Canada very well,” Emer­son said.

A strong advocate for deeper and broader ties with Asian coun­tries for more than 20 years, Woo said that he is looking to con­trib­ute his ex­pe­ri­ence and net­work to de­velop pol­icy is­sues, espe­cially those im­por­tant to Bri­tish Columbia.

“It will be in Canada’s in­ter­est to be more en­gaged with the most eco­nom­i­cally dy­namic re­gion in the world,” he said.

In ad­di­tion, Woo deems that the rise of China is re-shap­ing global economics, pol­i­tics and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

“Canada has al­ways been a Pa­cific na­tion, but our ori­en­ta­tion has his­tor­i­cally been on Europe and the United States,” Woo said, “As a Chi­nese Cana­dian with roots in South­east Asia, I bring a unique per­spec­tive to the op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges of build­ing stronger ties across the Pa­cific.

“My eth­nic­ity is less im­por­tant than the world view that I bring to my new po­si­tion — in­clud­ing open­ness, mutual re­spect and seek­ing the com­mon good,” he said.

Men­tion­ing the re­cent vis­its of PM Trudeau to China and Premier Li to Ot­tawa, Woo said that the vis­its have set the stage for a more ro­bust bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries.

“There is a lot of good will at the present, but it has to be matched by con­crete ac­tions by both sides,” said Woo. “There are political and cul­tural dif­fer­ences be­tween the two coun­tries, and we should ex­pect that there will con­tinue to be dis­agree­ments on a num­ber of im­por­tant is­sues.

“But Canada and China can have a re­la­tion­ship which is broad enough and ma­ture enough to han­dle dif­fer­ences of opin­ion. If these con­di­tions are in place, I be­lieve there is an op­por­tu­nity for re­ally am­bi­tious bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion on in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment, hu­man cap­i­tal, in­no­va­tion, and more.”

When Woo was at the Asia Pa­cific Foun­da­tion of Canada from 2005 to 2014, he led an ini­tia­tive called the National Con­ver­sa­tion on Asia, a three­year cross-Canada cam­paign to high­light the grow­ing im­por­tance of Asia in the world and for Canada.

They held con­ver­sa­tions across the coun­try with First Na­tions groups, stu­dents, artists and busi­ness and com­mu­nity lead­ers.

As a fol­low-up to the National Con­ver­sa­tion on Asia, the Foun­da­tion is em­bark­ing on a ma­jor ini­tia­tive to strengthen “Asia Com­pe­tence” in Cana­dian schools, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion about Asian history, economics and so­ci­ety, and learn­ing Asian lan­guages.

“I hope to con­tinue the national con­ver­sa­tion on Asia as a se­na­tor, among many other is­sues that I am looking for­ward to work­ing on, in the in­ter­est of Cana­di­ans,” he said.

En­cour­aged by Woo’s new sen­ate role, it was said that more Cana­di­ans of Chi­nese de­scent would par­tic­i­pate in the coun­try’s pol­i­tics and con­trib­ute to Canada, a coun­try con­tin­ues to wel­come and pro­mote cul­tural di­ver­sity.

“I hope that I will be seen as proof that mi­nori­ties and im­mi­grants to Canada, in­clud­ing Chi­nese Cana­di­ans of all gen­er­a­tions, can have a place in the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment, not be­cause of our eth­nic­ity, but be­cause of our abil­ity and commitment to Canada,” he said.

Yuen Pau Woo along with other five new Sen­a­tors was sworn in last Thurs­day, on Novem­ber 17. They are the first six of a group of 21 Sen­a­tors who have been se­lected un­der a new non-par­ti­san, merit-based process.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Yuen Pau Woo is one of nine in­de­pen­dent sen­a­tors ap­pointed late last month.

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