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Trade pact between India, Canada likely to be clinched in 2023: Officials

Hindustan Times | 15 December 2022
By Anirudh Bhattacharyya

Trade pact between India, Canada likely to be clinched in 2023: Officials

Toronto: The Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) between India and Canada is likely to be clinched in the second half of 2023, with the potential for the formal signing coming as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits India in September for the G20 leaders’ summit.

Senior India and Canadian officials told the Hindustan Times that there is optimism that the deal will fructify next year.

Negotiators on both sides are working on ironing out the differences that remain before a mutually acceptable document is arrived at. They are scheduled to meet for two rounds of discussions in New Delhi and Ottawa in January and February. Five rounds of negotiations towards the EPTA have already taken place.

However, officials would not reveal details of the components of the deal that have not been resolved but among the problematic areas are India’s ask of easing mobility. On the other side, while Canada has low tariff lines, it may be difficult for India to reduce its numbers to those sought by Ottawa.

The EPTA is expected to capture the low-hanging fruit in the trade relationship between the two countries, leaving out “deal-breakers”, leading to efforts to bring back to life the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). “I’m sure both sides will manage to overcome some of these process challenges in 2023,” former Indian high commissioner to Ottawa Ajay Bisaria said.

“With the recent Indo-Pacific Strategy released by Canada which has India as a critical partner and China as a disruptive power, there is both a geopolitical push and strong bilateral political will to move forward with renewed commitment towards the EPTA,” he added.

Officials were also hopeful that a high-profile formalisation of the pact, at the Prime Ministerial level, will also signify political will to change the direction of bilateral ties, which have been held hostage by New Delhi’s displeasure over pro-Khalistani elements being allowed a platform in Canada.

Others in the India-Canada corridor remain positive, as Victor Thomas, president and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council, said, “As India has taken the global stage as President of the G20, Canada has a unique opportunity to complete an EPTA in 2023.”

The concerned ministers had last met to take forward the conversation in September, when Canada’s Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development Marg Ng conferred with Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal in Nusa Dua, on the margins of the G20 in Indonesia.

That was the sixth meeting between the two ministers within a year, and the second in person after Ng visited India earlier this year and the two countries decided to consider the interim agreement during the course of a ministerial dialogue on trade and investment with Goyal on March 11.

According to official data, Canada’s exports to India in 2021 was worth nearly CA$3 billion ($2,21 billion) while imports were at nearly CA$6 billion ($4.42 billion).

 source: Hindustan Times