India is our key priority in trade: Canada

Toronto: Canada said deepening trade ties with India is its key priority as the two countries work out the modalities of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to be signed soon.

Speaking at a round-table discussion with the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce here, Ed Fast, minister of international trade, said India was a priority country for Canada in terms of forging better economic relations.

“Earlier this week, Canadian and Indian officials held a successful meeting in Ottawa, where they worked toward a comprehensive economic partnership agreement. There is opportunity here, and we are seizing it in order to protect and strengthen the financial security of hardworking Canadians,” the Canadian minister said.

He said, “With trade representing some 60 percent of Canada’s economy, strengthening and increasing trade and investment with India is vital to our economic recovery. Building on the already strong ties we have with India will lead to new opportunities and stronger economies for both countries.”

Punjab-born Bal Gosal,, who is the minister of state for sports in the Canadian cabinet, said, “Forging closer Canada-India ties is a key priority for our government, and today’s round-table discussion puts even greater emphasis on this important relationship.

“Our ongoing negotiations toward a free trade agreement are a clear indication of our commitment to strengthening this relationship.”

Lauding the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his stress on boosting business ties with India, Satish Thakkar, president of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, said, “The Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce lauds the efforts of the Harper government to improve economic relations with India. Our Chamber supports an economic partnership agreement and we believe it will result in all-around benefits.”

A Canada-India joint study in 2010 concluded that free trade could expand Canada’s economy by at least $6 billion and increase bilateral trade with India by 50 percent.

Last year, the bilateral trade between Canada and India totalled $4.2 billion. With the two countries likely to sign a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), they aim to triple it by 2015.

Canadian goods face 16 percent tariff in India while Indian goods face nine percent tariff in Canada.

But once the deal is signed and tariffs are eliminated, each country is expected to gain between $6 billion and $15 billion in trade volume.

Currently, India is Canada’s 15th largest trading partner while Canada ranks 33rd on India’s list. By Gurmukh Singh