Information Brochure on the Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth Program

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Regional context

Asia is undergoing a rapid economic transformation that involves sustained economic growth, industrialization, urbanization and more complex ways of moving products to market. Developing Asian economies are experiencing significant social changes as workers move from agriculture jobs into manufacturing. This transition is boosting economic growth, labour productivity and incomes, and helping to move the most vulnerable people out of poverty. Between 1990 and 2011, 950 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty in Asia.

Despite these achievements, poverty and inequality persist. More than 1.6 billion people live on less than US$2 a day in Asia; two thirds of them are women. Rapid economic development and urbanization have contributed to critical infrastructure deficits, environmental degradation, increased greenhouse gas emissions and unequal distribution of wealth. In addition, trade barriers, lack of infrastructure financing and poor regulatory frameworks are limiting economic growth in developing Asian countries and threaten the region’s overall productivity and competitiveness.

About the TRIGR Program

Launched in 2013 by what is now Global Affairs Canada, the Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth (TRIGR) Program contributes to poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth in Asia through building capacity for trade and investment-related economic activities. The TRIGR Program supports initiatives using official development assistance (ODA) funds which, by definition, must contribute to poverty reduction.

TRIGR programming concentrates on three interrelated areas: building capacity for infrastructure through public-private partnerships (PPPs); connecting businesses to regional and global markets; and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Facilitating the private sector’s contribution to achieving development results permeates these three areas of work.

How TRIGR works

To achieve its expected development results, TRIGR funds multi-country development assistance projects that vary in scope, budget and duration. TRIGR has the capacity to work on regional and country-specific programming, including in ODA-eligible countries where a Canadian bilateral development assistance program does not exist. Indeed, it seeks to complement development assistance provided through other programming channels.

Figure 1: Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth Program

 Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth Program Chart

Figure 1: Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth Program – Details

TRIGR works with Canadian civil society organizations, the private sector, international organizations and multilateral institutions. Its Asia-wide mandate facilitates strategic partnerships with organizations in the region. TRIGR has also developed responsive programming that allows for the rapid deployment of Canadian technical expertise to respond to requests from developing country partners in areas related to TRIGR’s mandate.

The Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth Program (TRIGR) provides funding to implementing organizations for:

These activities help engage the private sector in development through:

Overall, TRIGR contributes to poverty reduction through sustainable economic growth. It is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including goals 1 (no poverty), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action) and 17 (partnerships for the goals).

For more information, visit the Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth Program.

Engaging and Supporting the Private Sector in Development

Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but the challenges to meeting its goals are enormous. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, closing the infrastructure gap, providing universal access to social protection, health and education, and implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation measures will cost an estimated US$2.1 trillion to $2.5 trillion per year. Footnote 1

Figure 2: Estimated investment needs in key SDG sectors

 Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth Program - Infographic 2

Figure 2: Estimated investment needs in key SDG sectors – Details

Public investors will need trillions of dollars annually to achieve the sustainable development goals. There is a US$2.6 trillion annual shortfall in funding worldwide for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development across health, education, food security, climate change and infrastructure.

Source: Adapted from United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, “World Investment Report 2014.” Current annual investment includes both public and private investments, defined as capital expenditures. Estimated annual gap based on average between low and high estimates. Note slight variations due to rounding.

Official development assistance (ODA) is just one part of financing the Agenda for Sustainable Development. Facilitating private sector investment for development is essential.

Businesses are central to the development process: they provide jobs and income, and pay taxes that support a viable public sector. In order to succeed, however, the private sector needs stable, predictable and transparent public institutions, as well as an enabling environment that provides access to markets, finance, technology and human capital.

TRIGR uses ODA to encourage private sector investments that address development challenges in Asia and around the world. It helps create trade and investment opportunities for the private sector to expand its footprint in developing countries in ways that promote sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.

Examples of how TRIGR works with the private sector

TRIGR helps to build the capacity of national governments in Asia to develop public-private partnership projects in infrastructure projects that are ready for private sector investment.

Through projects that help lower the risk of investing in frontier markets, TRIGR also encourages private investment in developing markets that lack access to capital.

Infrastructure Financing through Public-Private Partnerships

Efficient and resilient infrastructure is critical to driving and sustaining economic growth. Sound infrastructure attracts foreign direct investment and positions countries to improve productivity and expand employment and prosperity. In Asia, building strong urban infrastructure is particularly important: the region is home to 12 of the world’s 23 biggest cities and more than 56 percent of the region’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2030.

However, infrastructure development in Asia has not kept pace with economic growth and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that the region needs to invest US$8 trillion in infrastructure between 2010 and 2020 to maintain current levels of economic growth and poverty reduction. Infrastructure shortages not only hold back inclusive growth and competitiveness, but affect access to basic services. Throughout the region, 1.7 billion people lack access to sanitation and 680 million are without access to electricity.

Despite the urgent need for investment in infrastructure, governments alone cannot provide the funding. Many countries have identified public-private partnerships (PPPs)—which are essentially long-term contracts between governments and private sector entities to build and maintain public infrastructure—as a way to address this challenge. A lack of PPP projects in Asia is, in part, due to the limited public sector capacity to bring projects to market and a weak enabling environment to attract financing. By partnering with the private sector, governments can access private capital and expertise to achieve public benefits.

Did You Know?

TRIGR supports a number of PPP initiatives in Asia. One such initiative is the Asia-Pacific Project Preparation Facility (AP3F), a multi-donor facility managed by the ADB. The AP3F supports poverty reduction by building the capacity of developing Asian governments to prepare, structure and place bankable PPP projects in the market. The facility prioritizes PPP infrastructure projects with regional cooperation, sustainable development and climate change elements.

Developing ADB member countries can initiate proposals for funding to the ADB’s Office of Public-Private Partnership. Assistance from the AP3F may be available to central and local governments, government agencies and other entities eligible to receive assistance from the ADB.

For more information, contact the ADB country office closest to the market under consideration.

A leader in developing PPPs, Canada has a long history of using this approach to build a wide range of infrastructure, including public transit, hospitals and airports. A number of TRIGR projects support Asian countries to develop commercially viable infrastructure projects and establish PPP national policy frameworks. TRIGR has the opportunity to promote Canada’s PPP expertise to the region’s decision makers, mobilize increased Canadian investment in these emerging markets and provide opportunities for the private sector to increase its participation in infrastructure and social service provision in support of greater economic growth and poverty reduction.

Connecting Businesses to Regional and Global Markets

The relationship between trade and poverty reduction is complex. While increased trade can lead to economic growth, it is not sufficient to ensure poverty reduction. Supporting vulnerable groups to benefit from trade liberalization is vital to ensuring that increased openness leads to sustained poverty reduction.

Figure 3: Time to export and import by region, 2013

 Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth Program - Infographic 3

Figure 3: Time to export and import by region, 2013 – Details

East Asia and Pacific

South Asia

Europe and Central Asia

High Income: OECD

Latin America and Caribbean

Middle East and North Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa

Source: World Bank. Doing Business Database.

Border procedures need to be sufficiently predictable and transparent to allow producers and consumers to secure the greatest possible benefit from international trade. Furthermore, non-tariff barriers, such as unnecessarily complex licensing and product standards, inhibit international trade. Tackling such non-tariff barriers to trade is essential to improving the flow of goods across borders, boosting competitiveness and sustaining regional economic growth.

TRIGR seeks to improve trade outcomes where development challenges are the most complex. Projects supported by TRIGR work to facilitate the integration of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) into global value chains, find practical solutions that reduce costs and delays at the border, and support policy and regulatory reforms that address non-tariff barriers. TRIGR projects also support the Government of Canada’s efforts to champion open trade through bilateral trade agreements by helping targeted sectors adapt to increased trade flows with Canada in a manner that supports poverty reduction.

Encouraging MSMEs to expand into global and regional markets

The TRIGR Program’s $4.74-million APEC-Canada Growing Business Partnership project supports a diverse range of capacity-building activities and helps address the challenges that MSMEs in developing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies face when trying to integrate with regional and global markets.

An MSME sub-fund managed by the APEC Secretariat supports small-scale projects and helps MSMEs in developing APEC economies to expand their businesses, create poverty-reducing employment and integrate into the broader APEC market. A second project component, implemented by the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada, supports complementary MSME workshops, training sessions, conferences and research. Canada’s support helps to fund studies, surveys, conferences and training focused on business and entrepreneurship skills, access to markets for products and services, and technological innovation.

Access to Finance and Supporting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are an important engine for economic growth in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. SMEs account for an average of 96 percent of all enterprises and 62 percent of the national labor forces in the region, but contribute an average of only 42 percent of GDP.Footnote 2


The TRIGR Program’s $19.95-million New Partnership for Sustainable Impact Investing in Frontier Markets (INFRONT) supported the launch of a US$150 million private equity fund that mobilized more than US$85 million from private investors.

The fund is designed to encourage private investment to support the growth of up to 250 of the most promising SMEs in frontier markets, thereby creating poverty-reducing employment.

INFRONT also supports socially responsible business practices and provides complementary technical assistance to maximize development benefits.

One of the greatest impediments to growth among SMEs in Asian developing countries is a lack of access to financing. SMEs are generally a higher risk than larger businesses and have limited collateral to secure credit. They also struggle to navigate complex border procedures and regulatory requirements, which hamper their potential to expand and benefit from increased trade.

A recent Asian Development Bank study shows that trade finance proposals from SMEs are rejected three times more often than those from larger firms.Footnote 3 Additional studies indicate that 45-55 percent of formal SMEs in emerging markets lack access to formal institutional loans or overdrafts.Footnote 4

TRIGR projects leverage private investment in SMEs, assist governments to strengthen the business enabling environment and provide technical assistance to SMEs to support the development of human capital, management and operational skills and entrepreneurial capacity.

For more information, visit the Canada-Asia Trade and Investment for Growth Regional Program.

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