The strong 32% growth in bilateral trade to $8.25 billion in 2015-16 compared with $6.4 billion in the previous year is a clear indication that India and Canada’s economic relations are on an upswing. Various sectors including agriculture, education and renewable energy have been identified by both sides to open up more avenues of growth. With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expected to visit India this year, Nadir Patel, the high commissioner of Canada to India, talks to Huma Siddiqui. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
What are the governments of both countries doing to increase bilateral trade and investments?
In the last two years trade between the two countries has gone up by 20%. There has been a dramatic rise in two-way trade and foreign direct investment in the last couple of years and expect this trend to continue as there is potential for more growth. India-Canada trade rose from $4.8 billion in 2012-13 to $6.2 billion in 2015-16.
As far as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is concerned, it is not possible to give a firm time frame. However, during the maiden visit of minister of international trade François-Philippe Champagne, both sides reiterated that concluding negotiations as soon as possible should be the priority. Our negotiators will continue to exchange views and perspectives. And hopefully by the end of March, we would have a timeline for the negotiations.
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About investments both ways?
Canada is keen on investing its pension funds in urban development and infrastructure projects. We want to see Indian companies to invest in aerospace, auto parts and agro products. There are possibilities of investments in tech collaboration, food security, policy capacity and development.
How can Canadian aviation companies help in India’s regional connectivity?
The Magellan Aerospace has announced its plans to construct a new manufacturing and assembly facility in India. The facility will be constructed on seven acres in the Aerospace Special Economic Zone near the Bangalore International Airport. With an investment of CDN $28 million in this state-of-the-art manufacturing and assembly plant, the company’s footprint will expand in India. It will be constructed in three phases, with the first phase to be commissioned around the end of 2017. This will increase the spectrum of capabilities — reflecting the company’s commitment to provide competitive solutions for major commercial customers. The new manufacturing and assembly facility will support the production of larger work packages for major structural assemblies, fabrications, and machined components for the global market.
We can help from developing airports and flying helicopters for emergency and remote locations to creating MRO facilities, providing training and manufacturing of key components. Our aerospace sector possesses diversified capabilities that have created an ecosystem enriched by companies like CAE, Bombardier etc along with the Aerospace Industry Association of Canada with 700 industries on board.
Are Canadian companies willing to participate in ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ initiatives?
In terms of ‘Make in India’, we do make in India. Several Canadian companies including McCain Foods and Bombardier Transportation are present here. Building on the recent agreements, more Canadian companies are planning to come to India to study the development of aerospace parks and joint ventures, and participate in ‘Make in India’ manufacturing initiatives in the near future.
Since we subscribe to skilling India, in 2015 the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) signed 13 MoUs with 12 Canadian educational institutions, including nine colleges. The objectives are for starting Academies of Excellence for training trainers and assessors, and to create Transnational Standards with Canadian Sector Skill Councils. Each Canadian college will be paired with an Indian partner that’s focused on a specific sector, such as aviation, healthcare or agriculture. The Indian partners will pay the colleges for their services which could include curriculum development, education for Indian trainers and assistance with accreditation systems.
The colleges will work through centres of excellence overseas that have been established by India’s National Skill Development Corporation.
In the agriculture sector, how can Canada help India?
Recently the minister of agriculture and agri-food led a delegation of over 20 Canadian companies and associations active to India. We have the technologies and the knowhow that we are ready to share with Indian firms for agro products. Our companies can offer high-quality agriculture products including canola oil, seafood, snack items, health and energy food/drinks, cereals, flax products, sugar-free items, gluten-free products, bakery goods, processed foods, confectionery, juices, and fresh and dried fruits, including apple products.
What about cooperation in the space sector?
We were impressed by the recent launch of 104 satellites by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). An MoU was inked in 2015 between the Department of Space and the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) on cooperation in the field of outer space. This would lead to establishment of a joint team drawing members from Isro and CSA, which will further work out the plan of action including examination and defining cooperative projects and the time frame. This will also provide opportunities for diverse research in the field of peaceful uses of space technologies.
Has Canada started supplying uranium?
We have a lot to offer by providing design technology for reactors and training in nuclear waste management. Uranium has started to flow and we would
like that to grow further. We continue to support India’s membership in the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).