Canada seeks comprehensive trade pact with India

February 18th, 2009 - 12:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) Faced with the global economic slowdown, Canada is seeking Indian investments, touting its newly-liberalised rules. It has also called on the Indian government to start talks on a comprehensive trade agreement.

“My basic message to Indian companies is that Canada is open for business,” Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement told IANS in an interview during a five-day trip to India. He arrived Saturday, and has already met Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Communications and IT Minister A. Raja.

Clement’s visit comes only days after he unveiled major changes in investment rules to make it easier for foreign companies to invest in Canada. He is the fourth Canadian minister to visit India in the space of about a month.

The current value of bilateral trade between Canada and India is just about $4 billion, but Clement asserted this was “going to increase”.

He cited the recent visit by his cabinet colleague, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day, who led a delegation that included several companies working in the civil nuclear energy sector. “That is a clear site where there could be great synergies,” said Clement.

The minister also said he wanted India to quickly finalise the text of the bilateral Foreign Investment Promotion Agreement (FIPA), which has been under negotiation for nearly two years.

“We continue to encourage the Indian government to finalise the FIPA. We are ready to cross the t’s and dot the i’s on that. We want to get that moving into implementation.”

Besides, both countries are inching towards talks on a comprehensive trade agreement. “I encouraged Minister Nath to work with us, and he is quite interested in moving towards some of the areas (of a trade agreement). Certainly, from my perspective as an industry minister, we have a lot of companies that will benefit from that,” said Clement.

He will be making a separate pitch for India’s automobile sector to look at Canada as a launching pad into the North American market.

“Part of my mission is to speak to Indian automobile parts companies and to make the case that there will be a time when they would like to expand. Maybe they will like to have a foothold in North America in future. Canada is a very good place to start,” said Clement.

He is scheduled to meet officials of Tata Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra and the Automotive Component Manufacturers’ Association in Mumbai.

About 20 percent of the production of the big three US auto companies is in Canada, which has been hard hit by the slowdown in demand.

“We want to maintain that proportion of overall capacity in North America. So we have a goal of rescue, which approximates about 20 percent of the American (bailout) packages.”

Clement also met Indian tourism operators Monday, with the aim to attract tourists from here.

“We are going to do a proper study of India, find out what the baseline is in terms of attitudes towards Canada - and develop a strategy to enhance our attractiveness,” he said.

The minister said India and Canada had a “community of interests” in resisting “the tide of protection which usually rises during difficult times”. Canada had strongly resisted the “buy American” clause which had been included in the original US stimulus package, and diluted thereafter.

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