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Watch EASF 2021 Live on Nov 17-18

Conference Program

Here is the conference program. Please click on the registration link for each session you’d like to attend. You have to register for each session separately on Zoom.

Day 1: Geopolitics in the East Asia-Pacific at an Inflection Point

Nov 17, 2021

Panel 1: Whose Order? Regional Powers and Clashing Conceptions of Asia’s Future

10:00AM – 11:30AM EST

The regional security architecture in East and Southeast Asia is in a state of flux as the neighbourhood weighs competing visions of interstate competition, cooperation, engagement, and regional alliances. China’s ascent and the North Atlantic reaction to it led by the United States and her allies has compounded Asia’s complexities, putting additional strain on the extant relationships in the region. 

Moreover, given the increasing securitization across the region, the future role of Asia’s established institutions such as the ASEAN, APEC, and others remains in doubt. Mixed reactions to minilateral security arrangements, including the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and AUKUS, signal a general lack of consensus as to the needs and strategic vision of various state and institutional actors across the Asia-Pacific. 

As Washington reconceives its conventional post-WWII role in the Asia-Pacific, this discussion will examine the prospects for a new regional order in Asia that balances the specter of great power competition against contestation over sovereignty and vital national interests. Speakers will evaluate Asia’s current strategic landscape, the possible emergence of a regional hegemon, and how mid-size and small powers can best influence the regional order in Asia in the 21st century.

Brian Job: Professor Emeritus, Political Science, and Associate Faculty, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, UBC

Victor Gao: Vice-President, Center for China and Globalization

Douglas Macgregor: Retired US Army Colonel; former Senior Advisor to Acting US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller

Elina Noor: Director, Political-Security Affairs, Asia Society Policy Institute

Eugene Gholz: Associate professor of political science, University of Notre Dame; Visiting fellow, Defense Priorities; Former senior advisor to the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy


Anton Malkin: Associate Fellow, IPD; Assistant Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen

Panel 2: US-China Competition and the Emerging Asia-Pacific Order

1:30PM – 3:00PM EST

Within the crystallizing narrative of a great power rivalry between Washington and Beijing, the Asian theater is often perceived as the central space wherein the competition will play out, casting the region as key to a global strategic chess game. Such a framing of the Sino-American contest promises to have far-reaching implications for the Asia-Pacific putting added emphasis on the region and the strategic calculations around it. The specter of great power politics hangs over many core fault lines in Asia, including the Taiwan Strait, the shifting U.S. alliance system, and competing trade blocs such as CPTPP. Pressing regional challenges such as diplomacy with Pyongyang and stability in the South China Sea are contingent on how Beijing and Washington manage as well as balance competition and engage to deescalate growing tensions.

To assess these dynamics and underlying factors, this discussion will investigate the current landscape of U.S.-China relations to shed light both on the relationship itself and how this most pivotal relationship affects the two giants’ other bilateral and multilateral moves in the region. Speakers will also consider how regional powers hedge or align their policies within great power competition and review how tensions are shaping impulses for regional primacy.

Michael D. Swaine: Director, East Asia Program, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ralph A. Cossa: President Emeritus and WSD-Handa Chair, Pacific Forum

Robert S. Ross: Professor, Boston College; Associate, Harvard Fairbank Center

Michael Vlahos: Senior Fellow, IPD; Professor at The Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Programs


Van Jackson: Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Victoria University of Wellington; Distinguished Fellow, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada; Defence & Strategy Fellow, Centre for Strategic Studies in Wellington, New Zealand

Panel 3: A Deliberate Pacific Power: Triangulating Canada and Its Strategy

3:15PM – 4:45PM EST

Canada’s posture towards the Pacific has long been subject to debate and calls for clarification. Canada’s national interests will determine the extent of its regional commitment and whether its pillars are centred on trade diversification, development assistance, or security cooperation. Engagement in Asia may require Ottawa to rethink its trans-Atlantic orientation, its foreign policy coordination with traditional partners, and the formula for an economic future that may rest in the Pacific.

Gathering domestic foreign policy thinkers and practitioners, this discussion will study the political and economic goalposts that anchor Ottawa’s strategy in East Asia and the Pacific, how it has or has not defined the means for achieving them, and where the demand is, if any, for Canada to step up and articulate its relevance.


Margaret Cornish: Honorary Research Fellow, UBC Institute of Asian Research; Board Advisor, IPD

Jeffrey Reeves: Vice-President, Research & Strategy, Asia Pacific Foundation

Paul Evans: Professor and HSBC Chair in Asian Research, UBC

Jeremy Paltiel: Professor, Carleton University


Zachary Paikin, Research Fellow, IPD; Researcher in EU Foreign Policy at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels (CEPS)

Panel 4: Calculating the Relationship: China’s Economic Impact on Canada

5:00PM – 6:15PM EST

With pending trading disputes and the trajectory of Canada’s commercial ties with China unclear, the Canada China Business Council has recently published two reports to quantify the value of the economic relationship and to understand the business climate. How deep are linkages between both economies, and how have they weathered the pandemic and political difficulties in recent years?

This session will feature a presentation by Sarah Kutulakos, Executive Director of Canada China Business Council (CCBC), about two recent studies: ‘China’s Economic Impact on Canada: Trade, Investment, and Immigration’ as well as the ‘Canada-China Business Survey 2020-2021.’ Following Sarah’s presentation, panelists will engage in a moderated discussion to examine the breadth and depth of the Canada-China economic relationship and its implications for Canadian jobs, future growth, and the national interest. The speakers will also discuss the challenges ahead for business with China and discuss the potential restrictions and risks that the business community should be prepared to tolerate in dealing with China.


Sarah Kutulakos: Executive Director, Canada China Business Council (CCBC) 

Yanling Wang: Professor of International Affairs and Associate Director of  Ph.D Program at Carleton University; former consultant at World Bank

Carlo Dade: Director of the Trade & Investment Centre, Canada West Foundation


Jia Wang: Interim Director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta

Day 2: The Evolution of Statecraft in a Pluralist Asia

Nov 18, 2021

Panel 5: Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and the Role of Middle Powers in the Era of Great Power Politics

10:00AM – 11:30AM EST

Amid the uncertainty around China-U.S. relations, middle powers are vying for strategic autonomy seeking space to formulate and pursue their own grand strategies. From Tokyo’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept to Seoul’s “New Southern Policy”, Japan and South Korea are pivotal stakeholders that craft and identify their own objectives according to their own national interests. Moreover, the U.S. alliance system and mechanisms such as the Trilateral Summit indicate a will to cultivate multi-vector policies that can resolve issues on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere in Asia.

This discussion will seek to understand how Seoul and Tokyo walk the tightrope of diplomacy that is increasingly constrained between the priorities of the U.S. and China. The question remains to what extent could these middle powers, along with their counterpoints in Southeast Asia, serve as buffers in the regional order and how could they forge an independent path forward in the era of great power politics.


Nobushige Takamizawa: Former Deputy Secretary-General, National Security Secretariat (Japan); former Japanese Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament

Yves Tiberghien: Professor of Political Science and Konwakai Chair in Japanese Research at the University of British Columbia (UBC)

John Nilsson-Wright: Korea Foundation Korea Fellow and Senior Fellow, Chatham House; Senior Lecturer, Cambridge University

Sarang Shidore: Director of Studies, Quincy Institute; Senior Fellow, Council on Strategic Risks


David Dewitt: Professor Emeritus, York University; Board Advisor, IPD

Luncheon Keynote: Conversation with Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs

12:00PM – 12:30 PM EST

Jeffrey D. Sachs: Director, Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University; former Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General


– Wenran Jiang, Board Advisor, IPD; President, Canada-China Energy and Environment Forum

Panel 6: Troubled Waters: Averting War in the South China Sea and Taiwan

1:30PM – 3:00PM EST

Maritime disputes in the South China Sea and the ongoing risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait are major fault lines for regional stability in Asia. Cross-strait relations are at a standstill amid questions on the Biden administration’s commitments to Taipei, debates over “strategic ambiguity”, recent arms sales, and the evolving force postures of Beijing and Washington. In the South China Sea, freedom of navigation operations, negotiations over a joint Code of Conduct and the role of US defense treaties with Manila have yet to generate a sustainable path to de-escalation and stability.

This discussion will explore the risk of hot conflict and evaluate the most serious flashpoints for regional instability. Speakers will review latent threat perceptions, the strategic sense of Taiwan as a “red line”, existing tools and mediating institutions for diplomatic engagement as well as crisis channels for military-to-military communication.


Lyle J. Goldstein: Director, Asia Engagement, Defense Priorities

Zack Cooper: Co-director, Alliance for Securing Democracy; Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

David Welch: University Research Chair and Professor Political Science, University of Waterloo

Peggy Mason: President, Rideau Institute; Board Advisor, IPD; former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament


Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute and Editorial Director of Responsible Statecraft

Panel 7: Economic Connectivity and Competition in a Multipolar Asia

3:15PM – 4:45PM EST

Economic integration in Asia is accelerating with the culmination of the RCEP agreement and Beijing’s latest bid to join the CPTPP. Investment and development initiatives are multiplying as Chinese BRI has influenced the creation of rival efforts by the G7. Simultaneously, the geopolitics of supply chains and technological competition have increasing ramifications for infrastructure deployment in emerging markets and how regional policymakers optimize economic cooperation between Beijing and Washington.

As the multi-trillion dollar demand for infrastructure provision in Asia remains, this discussion will assess how regional governments perceive economic integration given new political imperatives and global reaction to unfettered globalization. Speakers will also examine how neighborhood capitals are sensitive or agnostic to the competing opportunities made available by a multipolar economy and the reformation of regional economic institutions that reflect new equations of power.


Hugh Stephens: Distinguished Fellow, Asia Pacific Foundation; former Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and Communications, DFAIT

David Dollar: Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; former Country Director for China, World Bank

Shihoko Goto: Deputy Director for Geoeconomics, Wilson Center

Samantha Custer: Director of Policy Analysis, AidData, William & Mary’s Global Research Institute


David Carment: Senior Fellow, IPD; Professor of International Affairs at Carleton University

Closing Keynote: Beijing’s Grand Strategy and Lessons from Australia’s Engagement with China | Conversation with Dr. Geoff Raby, Australia's Former Ambassador to China

5:00PM – 6:00PM EST

With a doctorate in economics, Geoff Raby has lived in China for 18 years, and served as Australia’s Ambassador to China from 2007 to 2011. In his latest book China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order, Dr. Raby provides hard-hitting analysis on the rise of China and sharp proposals for restoring the worsening Australia-China relations back on track. What is Chinas grand strategy? Is China a rising aggressive hegemon or a “constrained superpower” driven by insecurity? How to reduce tensions in the Asia Pacific region and avoid the risk of war? What are the lessons Canada and other middle powers can learn from Australia’s engagement with China? Please join Ambassador Raby live from Australia for the EASF’s closing keynote speech, followed by a one-on-one discussion moderated by IPD advisory board member Dr. Wenran Jiang.

Keynote Speaker:

Geoff Raby: Australia’s Former Ambassador to China; former Deputy Secretary in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); former Australia’s Ambassador to WTO.


– Wenran Jiang: Advisor at IPD; President of Canada-China Energy and Environment Forum

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