(EnergyAsia, September 19 2011, Monday) — Canada must seize the current window of opportunity and huge potential to expand its energy trade and investment ties with Asia, according to a poll of 645 citizens conducted by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APFC) who are professionally engaged with the region.

Noting that the window “will not last forever”, the foundation in its latest opinion panel report on Energy Issues in Canada-Asia Relations said 71% of respondents believe that Canada needs to act now.

The poll is the first to reflect the views of Canadian experts who are professionally engaged with the growing economies across the Pacific. The respondents said that Canada’s most notable opportunities with Asia lie in the areas of sharing energy-related expertise (74%), export of energy products (73%), and increasing Asian investment in Canada (69%).

Nearly 77% of respondents agreed that a national energy strategy needs to be led by the federal government in collaboration with the provinces.

Eighty-two percent said top policy attention should be given to the renewable energy sector, particularly in promoting technological exchanges.

Among policy recommendations, green energy initiatives were viewed as important to expanding the Canada-Asia energy relationship. These include encouraging energy efficiency and conservation (93%), developing initiatives to encourage Canadian companies to innovate in renewable energy technology and products (82%), and promoting Canada in Asia as a leader in clean energy technology (83%).

With respect to the export of Canadian energy products, natural gas (76%) was ranked as the highest priority, followed by renewable energy (69%), and oil (67%).

Three-quarters of respondents support the building of pipelines to transport gas and oil to the west coast for subsequent shipment to Asia.

Indeed, nearly 70 percent of respondents believe that Canada should quickly build the infrastructure needed to transport energy products to Asia so as to avoid a lost opportunity.

However, only 63% support LNG tankers entering the waters off the west coast and barely half support allowing crude oil tankers to ply the west coast.

The poll found that “important barriers still exist” and need to be overcome before Canada will be able to take full advantage of a strong energy relationship with Asia.

In particular, it said Canadians engaged in Asia saw the inadequate knowledge and appreciation amongst their countrymen of the internal social, political, and cultural dynamics of Asian markets (63%) as a key obstacle.

On the topic of Asian investment in Canada’s energy sector, the respondents feel it is more important to focus on the social and economic benefits this investment can bring to Canada (66%) rather than worry about foreign threats to ownership of Canada’s natural resources (25%).

Among the countries in which respondents would welcome foreign direct investment in Canada’s energy sector, Japan (76%) and South Korea (71%), topped the list, higher than US (63%) and France (61%). Only 57% supported Chinese foreign direct investment.

Yuen Pau Woo, the APFC’s President and CEO, said:

“Canada has hitherto had a very narrow energy relationship with Asia, consisting mostly of inbound investment. There is an urgent need to broaden the relationship to include exports of oil and gas, exchange of expertise of green energy, and two-way investment. We cannot take for granted that these opportunities are indefinite.”