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Live Mint - 15 September 2023
’India-Canada FTA talks paused due to political reasons’
The negotiations between India and Canada on the free trade agreement (FTA), which resumed after a decade, have come to a halt due to political concerns, said a senior government official on Friday.
Without citing the Khalistan issue, which created differences between the two countries, the official said negotiations will resume once the “political issues" are resolved.
The announcement comes after Canada recently said the negotiations were on hold. “There were certain political developments in Canada on which India has raised its objections. India has shown its resentment against certain political developments in Canada and, therefore, for the time being, till these political issues are settled, we have paused negotiations," the official said. “The moment the political issues are sorted out, the talks will resume. So, it is only a pause."
Sikhs for Justice, a secessionist group, held the Khalistan referendum on 10 September at a gurdwara in British Columbia, Canada.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed India’s serious concerns about the anti-India activities involving extremist factions in Canada to his counterpart Justin Trudeau. India also expressed concerns to the Canadian authorities over the rally by Khalistanis on 8 July.
“Canada will always defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and freedom of peaceful protest, and it is extremely important to us... at the same time we are always there to prevent violence and to push back against hatred," Trudeau said after the G20 Summit concluded.
Over half a dozen rounds of talks have been held between the countries on the trade pact so far. In March 2022, the two countries re-launched negotiations for an interim agreement—Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA). In such agreements, two countries significantly reduce or eliminate duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them. Norms are also liberalized to promote trade in services to attract investments.
Indian businesses are looking for duty-free access for products like textiles and leather, besides easy visa norms for movement of professionals. Canada has interests in areas like dairy and agricultural products. The bilateral trade between the countries has risen to $8.16 billion in 2022-23 from $7 billion in 2021-22.
With PTI inputs.