Early harvest to free trade . . .
After months of preparations and four “consultative meetings” in the past year, India and Canada are on track to renew talks for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The talks come as Canada is seeking to diversify its trade options and recently re-launched formal trade talks with ASEAN. Meanwhile, India is aggressively pursuing trade talks with various economies and taking incremental steps in the form of Early Harvest Trade Agreements to ease tariffs on certain goods and services before concluding a comprehensive FTA.
A decade in the making . . .
Since 2010, the two countries have met many times to discuss the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and a Foreign Investment Promotion Protection Agreement (FIPA). However, discussions were suspended in 2018 when Canada began renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, the same year that was also marked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial visit to India. Since then, Canada-India relations have been on the mend, however not without issues. India and Canada have always shared tenuous relations, particularly regarding India’s contention that Canada has provided a haven to supporters and instigators of the separatist Khalistan movement. Meanwhile, Canada has had to contend with human rights violations in India, and most recently, the Indian farmers’ protest about the three controversial farm bills. On Monday, the Indian Parliament repealed the bills at their winter session.
Strong relations to build upon . . .
India and Canada share strong connections as commonwealth nations, parliamentary democracies, and through trade offices and diplomatic missions. Canadians of Indian descent, one of the largest Asian diasporas in Canada, have made significant economic and political contributions to the country. Furthermore, India is currently the largest source country for Canada’s international students, and a majority of newcomers from India are economic immigrants, which helps boost Canada’s economic growth. With the latest appointment of Parag Agarwal as Twitter’s CEO, there are now five CEOs of Indian origin leading the US tech-giants Alphabet, Microsoft, Adobe, and IBM, illustrating how people of Indian descent are making waves. Deepening Canada-India relations can enhance the opportunities and growth for both countries.