Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Canadian Industry Wants India to Expedite Trade Agreement


The Canadian government is putting pressure on India to fast-track a bilateral trade deal at a time when both countries are negotiating a nuclear deal. A Canadian business delegation headed by two former ministers is in the country seeking support of the local business community for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with India.

The delegation is openly critical of the Indian government’s attitude towards the trade deal. John Manley, president and chief executive of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, said they have received lukewarm response from India so far. “When we started talks with the Indian government about Cepa, we took the view that the benefits of free trade are so obvious that it is unnecessary to engage in a study. But [the] Indian government, on its part, wanted to have such a joint study,” he said. “We presented our papers towards completion of the study. We had set the target of May; it is almost April and there is no response.”

However, a commerce ministry official involved in the process said both the sides have exchanged chapters. He also said he was surprised at the impatience shown by the Canadian delegation.

Joseph Caron, Canada’s ambassador to India, said the impatience of the Canadian delegation is because it wants to maintain a positive momentum in the relationship between the two countries. “There is a very positive dynamics between the two countries at present. These things do not last forever,” he said. “We want to keep pushing this [CEPA] as much to the top of the agenda as we can.” Caron added that Canada wants the joint study report to be concluded at least prior to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Canada in June for a meeting of the Group of Twenty major economies (G-20). “Then we can get on the negotiating track,” he said.

Bilateral merchandise trade between India and Canada stood at $3.8 billion (around Rs17,100 crore) in 2008-09 and is growing at 17.7% every year. Read more here.