Ivey student eyes broader markets for Canada, Asia

Michael Roberts needed a bridge linking the end of his Richard Ivey School of Business degree and the academic job market. He thinks he may have found it.

The PhD candidate’s extensive knowledge of South Korea was a perfect fit for the Post-Graduate Research Fellowship from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APFC). Roberts, who receives $38,000 toward his research, was one of five Canadians selected.

“A lot of the people that are there (APFC) come from a political science background or economic background, so having someone do research for them from a business perspective is what they were looking for,” Roberts says.

APFC has initiated the National Conversation on Asia. Targeting business people, academics, politicians and everyday Canadians, the program hopes to create a dialogue in Canada about Asia and the importance of Asian-Canadian relations.

“From a business economic perspective, I think the push now is how do we become less reliant on the United States. It doesn’t mean we want less trade; we just want less of percentage of trade to the U.S.,” Roberts says. “The wealth in the world is shifting; we can’t ignore that. If we want to grow as a nation and not be left behind, we need to step up.

“We have the potential. We have this multi-cultural society where we have people who could do business anywhere in the world and we have so much to offer, we just need to organize.”

Roberts adds critical-thinkers in Canada are starting to wake up to the notion this country must look beyond traditional markets, and pursue new opportunities. In Asia, he says, the perspective of Canada is positive, but decision-makers don’t think of Canada as an independent market.

“You talk to these Korean firms and they see Canada as part of the American market, lumped in or an afterthought,” he says.

Roberts’ research focuses on Asians who come to North America, then returned to their home country and how they transfer their gained knowledge back. For this fellowship, he will produce a 5,000-8,000-word, Canadian-focused policy paper on a yet-to-be-defined topic. In addition, Roberts will help organize the Canada-Korea Forum in Ottawa this year.