Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bilateral Relations: Canada-India Free Trade Agreement By 2013

By J. C. Suresh
Courtesy IDN-InDepth NewsReport

TORONTO (IDN) - Canada and India have taken yet another significant step towards a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries by 2013, and tripling bilateral trade to $15 billion annually by 2015.

A third round of talks for the purpose concluded in New Delhi on December 16, 2011. The four-day discussions were in continuation of the negotiations launched in November 2010 at Seoul, South Korea, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit of major industrial and developing county economies.

As Canada's Minister of International Trade Ed Fast pointed out, with 1.2 billion consumers, "India presents tremendous opportunities for Canadian businesses of all sizes." Given that one in five jobs and more than 60 percent of Canada's economy depends on trade, deepening Canada's trading relationship with India "will help protect and strengthen the financial security of hard-working Canadians,” he added.

In 2010, bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and India totalled $4.2 billion, an increase of 46.6 percent since 2005. In 2010, the stock of two-way direct investment was more than $7 billion.

The target of tripling the two countries' trade by 2015 to $15 billion was set by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in June 2010.

Speaking from Geneva, where he was taking part in a World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, Fast said: "As agreed with my counterpart, India's Minister of Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma, during my trade mission to India, our two countries are committed to an ambitious schedule for negotiations. Discussions are advancing and Canada is aiming to conclude negotiations in 2013, and unlocking the benefits of free trade for Canadian businesses, workers and families."

"A Canada-India trade agreement has the potential to boost Canada's economy and create jobs and economic prosperity for hard-working Canadians. Our government is committed to building on our already strong ties with India to create a partnership that will lead to new opportunities and stronger economies in both countries,” Minister of State Bal Gosal added.

According to a Canada-India Joint Study Report, published in October 2010, free trade could boost Canada’s economy by at least CAD6bn. It also concluded that a deal could increase bilateral trade with India by 50 percent and directly benefit Canadian businesses and workers in sectors ranging from primary agriculture, resource-related and chemical products to transport equipment, machinery and equipment, and services.

Over the last five years, Canada has concluded new trade agreements with nine countries and is negotiating with around 50 others. This includes the current free trade negotiations with the European Union, which the government says represent Canada's most significant trade initiative since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Week Long Mission

Fast wrapped up a week-long trade mission to India on November 9. 2011 by delivering a keynote address to Indian and Canadian business leaders and by personally welcoming a shipment of high-quality agricultural products arriving from Canada to Mumbai Port.

During a seven-day, four-city visit to Delhi, Ahmedabad, Pune and Mumbai, Fast advocated closer economic ties between the two countries and promoted Canadian expertise in a set of key sectors, including agriculture and agri-food, energy and natural resources, infrastructure, information and communications technology, education and manufacturing.

"As Canada's trade minister, I can say that strengthening the Canada-India partnership is one of my top priorities," Fast told Canadian and Indian business leaders. "Throughout my week-long trade mission to this country, I have become more convinced than ever that an exciting future awaits both our countries – a future based on deeper trade and investments ties."

On the final day of his trade mission, Fast visited Mumbai Port to watch the tanker Ocean Crown, newly arrived from Vancouver, unload its cargo of Saskatchewan chickpeas.

"Seeing first-hand the demand here in India for Canadian products, such as our high-quality agricultural goods, demonstrates clearly how Canada's Asia-Pacific Gateway is connecting Canada to high-growth markets and is helping to secure jobs and prosperity for hard-working Canadians," said Fast.

"We will continue to respond to the demand for Canadian expertise and exports in high-growth Asian markets to ensure that as these markets grow, so too do the jobs and opportunities for Canadian workers and companies at home," he added.

While in Delhi, Fast took part in the second annual ministerial dialogue with India's Minister of Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma. The two ministers share a commitment to completing a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement as soon as possible, a pact that will boost two-way investment by giving both Canadian and Indian companies the predictability, stability and protection they need to expand their operations in each other’s markets.

“In my meetings with Minister Sharma, we agreed that a Canada-India trade agreement would benefit both our countries and take our partnership to the next level. We have now agreed to an ambitious timetable that will aim for negotiations to be concluded in 2013," Minister Fast said.

While in Delhi, Fast discussed a range of bilateral issues during meetings with other key government ministers, including India’s ministers for Human Resources Development, Finance, Communications and Information Technology, and Overseas Indian Affairs and Civil Aviation.

In Pune and Ahmedabad, Fast visited a number of Canadian companies with operations in India, including McCain Foods, Valiant Corporation, Magna International and Bombardier Inc. (see: Canadian Excellence and Expertise Benefit Both Canada and India, International Trade Minister Ed Fast Applauds Canadian Companies Expanding into High-Growth India and Minister Fast Visits Canadian Automotive Company in India) to discuss ways the Government of Canada can help them expand their operations in this high-growth market.

He also promoted the capabilities and expertise of these companies, and emphasized how closer cooperation between Canadian and Indian businesses will help ensure India’s continued growth in a number of vital sectors, including the auto sector, high-value manufacturing and engineering services.

Fast concluded his trade mission in India's financial capital of Mumbai, where he encouraged Indian business leaders to invest in Canada, noting that Forbes magazine recently ranked Canada as the best place to do business in the world.

In meetings with executives at Tata Motors Ltd. and at Aditya Birla Group, two of the largest Indian investors in Canada, and in a keynote address to members of the Indo-Canadian Business Chamber and EEPC India (formerly the Engineering Export Promotion Council), Minister Fast pointed to Canada's many advantages as an investment destination.

"From our low taxes and sound banking system to our strong fiscal outlook, top-notch workforce, and unwavering commitment to free and open trade and investment, I encourage Indian investors to continue to look to Canada as a businesses and investment destination," Fast said.

India is one of the highest-growth markets in the world, with an economy that has grown an average of 8.2 percent annually over the past five years, and it is fast becoming one of the most important and influential economies in the world. According to McKinsey Global Institute, nearly half of India’s households will be middle class by 2030