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Ottawa Dialogue on Taiwan — Event Report

Please note that IPD will publish a comprehensive report compiling key takeaways, insights, and policy recommendations from the Ottawa Dialogue on Taiwan by mid-November 2023.

On October 23, 2023, the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy (IPD) held the inaugural Ottawa Dialogue on Taiwan which convened scholars, policy experts, diplomats, and other policy practitioners for a comprehensive exchange of knowledge and discussion on various topics related to Taiwan, including regional security and stability, geostrategic developments, trade and economic linkages, and people-to-people relations. The Ottawa Dialogue on Taiwan was co-sponsored by the Global Taiwan Institute.

In his opening remarks, IPD Executive Director Bijan Ahmadi explained that the Dialogue was organized to provide a platform for knowledge exchange and policy formulation among researchers and practitioners.

Our goal in launching this Dialogue is to create an annual Canadian forum focused on policy discussions and strategic analyses concerning Taiwan. Amid the evolving complexities of the Indo-Pacific geopolitical landscape, this annual forum will serve as a valuable platform for the exchange of knowledge and insights among policy researchers and practitioners from Canada, Taiwan, and the United States.
Bijan Ahmadi
Executive Director, Institute for Peace & Diplomacy

The Dialogue started with Opening Keynotes from Taiwan’s Representative in Canada, Harry Ho-jen Tseng, and Members of Parliament Ken Hardie (Liberal) and Michael Cooper (Conservative).

Representative Tseng highlighted common misconceptions about Taiwan and spoke on other topics including changing trade dynamics, security concerns, Taiwan’s focus on international participation, and geopolitical risks.

MP Cooper discussed the importance of enhancing Canada-Taiwan bilateral ties as well as supporting Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and trade agreements.

MP Hardie spoke about the work of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations and its recent report on Canada-Taiwan relations.

Watch the Ottawa Dialogue on Taiwan Opening Keynotes:

The first panel on enhancing cross-strait peace and security featured Stephen Young (Former Director of the American Institute in Taiwan), Brian Santarpia (Former Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Maritime Forces Atlantic), Eric Chan (Senior Strategist, U.S. Air Force), Russell Hsiao (Executive Director, Global Taiwan Institute), and was moderated by David Perry (President, Canadian Global Affairs Institute).

Panelists debated topics including the security landscape in the Indo Pacific, U.S. Congress support for Taiwan, tensions in the China-U.S. relationship, and Taiwan’s efforts to enhance its defense. Canada’s approach to the Indo-Pacific was highlighted during a conversation on synergies with the U.S. in countering China’s activities. Views of regional countries such as Japan, South Korea, India and Australia towards Taiwan and cross-strait stability were shared. At the end of the panel, the experts discussed potential contingencies and other scenarios that could affect Taiwan’s security.

Watch Panel 1 — Enhancing Peace and Security Across the Taiwan Strait:

The second expert panel focused on building resilient supply chains and securing trade networks. Moderated by Pascale Massot (Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa), participants on this panel included Hugh Stephens (Former Executive Director, Canadian Trade Office in Taipei), Carlo Dade (Director, Trade & Investment Centre, Canada West Foundation), Meredith Lilly (Simon Reisman Chair in International Economic Policy, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University), and Bonnie Glick (Inaugural Director, Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy, Purdue University).

The panel primarily discussed opportunities for enhancing economic and trade cooperation with Taiwan, particularly with regard to Canadian exports and investments. Taiwan’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was a central point of discussion, covering the political, economic, and strategic dimensions of the trade bloc as well as Taiwan’s potential membership. The role of sub-national entities, such as Canadian provinces in Western Canada and U.S. states, was cited as a significant factor in stimulating industry investment and diversifying trade with Taiwan. Another major subject covered by the panelists was Taiwan’s prowess in the semiconductor sector and the ongoing reconfiguration of global semiconductor supply chains.

Watch Panel 2 — Taiwan and Shared Resiliency: Fostering Trade and Securing Supply Chains:

The final panel of the Dialogue looked at the role of diplomacy for maintaining cross-strait stability. Moderator Darren Touch (Founder & CEO, Canada-China Forum), led the discussion with Kelley Currie (Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues & Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations), Vina Nadjibulla (Adjunct Professor, School of Public Policy & Global Affairs, University of British Columbia), André Laliberté (Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa), and Russell Hsiao (Executive Director, Global Taiwan Institute).

The panelists engaged in discussions on a variety of topics, including Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts to preserve the status quo amid China’s increasing assertiveness and military incursions in the Taiwan Strait, Canada’s stance on Taiwan’s status, and Taiwan’s strategic importance on the global stage. A major point of emphasis was the role of diplomacy in elevating the issue of Taiwan and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait in the international community. The discussion also touched on the economic, military, and political facets of Taiwan’s situation, emphasizing the need to avoid self-deterrence when fostering relations with Taiwan. Referencing the earlier panel, the experts concurred on the importance of incorporating Taiwan into regional trade networks to help preserve its diplomatic space. The Global Cooperation and Training Framework was highlighted as an avenue for closer engagement with Taiwan.

Watch Panel 3 — Diplomacy's Role: Cooperation for Peace & Stability in the Taiwan Strait:

In his closing remarks, Executive Director Bijan Ahmadi mentioned that IPD will publish a report compiling the key takeaways and policy recommendations discussed during the event. The report is expected to be published by mid-November. He also acknowledged and thanked the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada for its support of the Ottawa Dialogue on Taiwan.

Panel 4: Pathways to Manage Non-Proliferation in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET)

The Western powers have failed to effectively manage the increasing threat of proliferation in the Middle East. While the international community is concerned with Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia has moved forward with developing its own nuclear program, and independent studies show that Israel has longed possessed dozens of nuclear warheads. The former is a member of the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), while the latter has refused to sign the international agreement. 

On Middle East policy, the Biden campaign had staunchly criticized the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal and it has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier since assuming office in January 2021. However, serious obstacles remain for responsible actors in expanding non-proliferation efforts toward a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. 

This panel will discuss how Western powers and multilateral institutions, such as the IAEA, can play a more effective role in managing non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  


Peggy Mason: Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament

Mark Fitzpatrick: Associate Fellow & Former Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

Ali Vaez: Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group

Negar Mortazavi: Journalist and Political Analyst, Host of Iran Podcast

David Albright: Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security


Closing (5:45 PM – 6:00 PM ET)

Panel 3: Trade and Business Diplomacy in the Middle East (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

What is the current economic landscape in the Middle East? While global foreign direct investment is expected to fall drastically in the post-COVID era, the World Bank reported a 5% contraction in the economic output of the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries in 2020 due to the pandemic. While oil prices are expected to rebound with normalization in demand, political instability, regional and geopolitical tensions, domestic corruption, and a volatile regulatory and legal environment all threaten economic recovery in the Middle East. What is the prospect for economic growth and development in the region post-pandemic, and how could MENA nations promote sustainable growth and regional trade moving forward?

At the same time, Middle Eastern diaspora communities have become financially successful and can help promote trade between North America and the region. In this respect, the diaspora can become vital intermediaries for advancing U.S. and Canada’s business interests abroad. Promoting business diplomacy can both benefit the MENA region and be an effective and positive way to advance engagement and achieve foreign policy goals of the North Atlantic.

This panel will investigate the trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, discuss how facilitating economic engagement with the region can benefit Canadian and American national interests, and explore relevant policy prescriptions.


Hon. Sergio Marchi: Canada’s Former Minister of International Trade

Scott Jolliffe: Chairperson, Canada Arab Business Council

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: Founder and Publisher of Bourse & Bazaar

Nizar Ghanem: Director of Research and Co-founder at Triangle

Nicki Siamaki: Researcher at Control Risks

Panel 2: Arms Race and Terrorism in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

The Middle East continues to grapple with violence and instability, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Fueled by government incompetence and foreign interventions, terrorist insurgencies have imposed severe humanitarian and economic costs on the region. Meanwhile, regional actors have engaged in an unprecedented pursuit of arms accumulation. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have imported billions of both Western and Russian-made weapons and funded militant groups across the region, intending to contain their regional adversaries, particularly Iran. Tehran has also provided sophisticated weaponry to various militia groups across the region to strengthen its geopolitical position against Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel. 

On the other hand, with international terrorist networks and intense regional rivalry in the Middle East, it is impractical to discuss peace and security without addressing terrorism and the arms race in the region. This panel will primarily discuss the implications of the ongoing arms race in the region and the role of Western powers and multilateral organizations in facilitating trust-building security arrangements among regional stakeholders to limit the proliferation of arms across the Middle East.



Luciano Zaccara: Assistant Professor, Qatar University

Dania Thafer: Executive Director, Gulf International Forum

Kayhan Barzegar: Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of Azad University

Barbara Slavin: Director of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

Sanam Shantyaei: Senior Journalist at France24 & host of Middle East Matters

Panel 1: Future of Diplomacy and Engagement in the Middle East (10:30 AM-11:45 AM ET)

The emerging regional order in West Asia will have wide-ranging implications for global security. The Biden administration has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier, an initiative staunchly opposed by Israel, while also taking a harder line on Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. Meanwhile, key regional actors, including Qatar, Iraq, and Oman, have engaged in backchannel efforts to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table. From a broader geopolitical perspective, with the need to secure its energy imports, China is also expected to increase its footprint in the region and influence the mentioned challenges. 

In this evolving landscape, Western powers will be compelled to redefine their strategic priorities and adjust their policies with the new realities in the region. In this panel, we will discuss how the West, including the United States and its allies, can utilize multilateral diplomacy with its adversaries to prevent military escalation in the region. Most importantly, the panel will discuss if a multilateral security dialogue in the Persian Gulf region, proposed by some regional actors, can help reduce tensions among regional foes and produce sustainable peace and development for the region. 


Abdullah Baabood: Academic Researcher and Former Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Trita Parsi: Executive Vice-President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi: President, Emirates Policy Centre​

Jon Allen: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn: Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor

Panel 4: Humanitarian Diplomacy: An Underused Foreign Policy Tool in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:30 PM ET)

Military interventions, political and economic instabilities, and civil unrest in the Middle East have led to a global refugee crisis with an increasing wave of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe and Canada. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in myriad ways, exacerbated and contributed to the ongoing security threats and destabilization of the region.

While these challenges pose serious risks to Canadian security, Ottawa will also have the opportunity to limit such risks and prevent a spillover effect vis-à-vis effective humanitarian initiatives in the region. In this panel, we will primarily investigate Canada’s Middle East Strategy’s degree of success in providing humanitarian aid to the region. Secondly, the panel will discuss what programs and initiatives Canada can introduce to further build on the renewed strategy. and more specifically, how Canada can utilize its policy instruments to more effectively deal with the increasing influx of refugees from the Middle East. 



Erica Di Ruggiero: Director of Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto

Reyhana Patel: Head of Communications & Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada

Amir Barmaki: Former Head of UN OCHA in Iran

Catherine Gribbin: Senior Legal Advisor for International and Humanitarian Law, Canadian Red Cross

Panel 3: A Review of Canada’s Middle East Engagement and Defense Strategy (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

In 2016, Canada launched an ambitious five-year “Middle East Engagement Strategy” (2016-2021), committing to investing CA$3.5 billion over five years to help establish the necessary conditions for security and stability, alleviate human suffering and enable stabilization programs in the region. In the latest development, during the meeting of the Global Coalition against ISIS, Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau announced more than $43.6 million in Peace and Stabilization Operations Program funding for 11 projects in Syria and Iraq.

With Canada’s Middle East Engagement Strategy expiring this year, it is time to examine and evaluate this massive investment in the Middle East region in the past five years. More importantly, the panel will discuss a principled and strategic roadmap for the future of Canada’s short-term and long-term engagement in the Middle East.


Ferry de Kerckhove: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Egypt

Dennis Horak: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Chris Kilford: Former Canadian Defence Attaché in Turkey, member of the national board of the Canadian International Council (CIC)

David Dewitt: University Professor Emeritus, York University

Panel 2: The Great Power Competition in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

While the United States continues to pull back from certain regional conflicts, reflected by the Biden administration’s decision to halt American backing for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and the expected withdrawal from Afghanistan, US troops continue to be stationed across the region. Meanwhile, Russia and China have significantly maintained and even expanded their regional activities. On one hand, the Kremlin has maintained its military presence in Syria, and on the other hand, China has signed an unprecedented 25-year strategic agreement with Iran.

As the global power structure continues to shift, it is essential to analyze the future of the US regional presence under the Biden administration, explore the emerging global rivalry with Russia and China, and at last, investigate the implications of such competition for peace and security in the Middle East.


Dmitri Trenin: Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

Joost R. Hiltermann: Director of MENA Programme, International Crisis Group

Roxane Farmanfarmaian: Affiliated Lecturer in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, University of Cambridge

Andrew A. Michta: Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at Marshall Center

Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute

Panel 1: A New Middle East Security Architecture in the Making (10:30 AM -11:45 AM ET)

The security architecture of the Middle East has undergone rapid transformations in an exceptionally short period. Notable developments include the United States gradual withdrawal from the region, rapprochement between Israel and some GCC states through the Abraham Accords and the rise of Chinese and Russian regional engagement.

With these new trends in the Middle East, it is timely to investigate the security implications of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. In this respect, we will discuss the Biden team’s new approach vis-à-vis Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The panel will also discuss the role of other major powers, including China and Russia in shaping this new security environment in the region, and how the Biden administration will respond to these powers’ increasing regional presence.



Sanam Vakil: Deputy Director of MENA Programme at Chatham House

Denise Natali: Acting Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies & Director of the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University

Hassan Ahmadian: Professor of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, University of Tehran

Abdulaziz Sagar: Chairman, Gulf Research Center

Andrew Parasiliti: President, Al-Monitor