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‘India hopeful of clinching early harvest trade deal with Canada’

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India is hopeful of clinching an early harvest trade deal with Canada within a year, according to a top Indian diplomat in Canada.

Speaking to the Hindustan Times, India’s high commissioner to Ottawa Ajay Bisaria expressed optimism that as a follow up of the announcement of negotiations towards an Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA), the two sides “will discuss this on an accelerated basis and conclude the agreement within a year”.

India and Canada decided to consider the interim agreement when Canadian minister of international trade, export promotion, small business and economic development Mary Ng visited New Delhi in March and held a Ministerial Dialogue on Trade & Investment with Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on March 11.

The EPTA, if concluded, will be a transitional step towards the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Indian officials said a similar interim deal signed with Australia on Saturday could serve as a “model” for the EPTA.

Both sides were focused on a pragmatic approach towards achieving such an outcome. This was echoed by Ng as she addressed members of the Canada India Foundation (CIF) in the Greater Toronto Area town of Markham on March 25.

She said, “We (Ng and Goyal) both want to get something accomplished. Once we take these important early steps, it creates confidence on both sides. We both agreed to negotiate an EPTA. This will be the first step toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.”

Ng told CIF members that her “goal” was “to expand the bilateral trade to the fullest extent possible.”

The Canada-India EPTA is being looked upon as the “first deliverable” towards strengthening the economic and trade relationship between the two countries.

After languishing for nearly four years, Indian and Canadian negotiators resumed discussions in June 2021 towards a potential trade pact. Before that, he last round of negotiations were held in August 2017.

Discussions on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement or FIPA are also continuing but CEPA remains the priority.

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