Canada, India need common framework on agri trade: Canada India Business Council’s Thomas

Canada seeks closure on early progress trade pact before FTA concludes, says the council’s president

Canada seeks closure on early progress trade pact before FTA concludes, says the council’s president

Canada and India should draft a common framework on agriculture-related issues for smooth business in agri items, said Victor T. Thomas, president of the Canada India Business Council. In an exclusive interview, Mr Thomas highlighted that Canada was looking forward to firm up an Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) before the final conclusion of the Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.

“On the agricultural side, our standards are very high. We are the sixth-largest exporter of agricultural products. The trouble has been that there were inconsistencies on both sides. The agreed upon framework to trade in agriculture was missing for both sides. Agriculture is one of our strongest pieces and a lot can be done in this sector. Canada’s role can be crucial in ensuring food security in India,” said Mr. Thomas providing his take on resolving the difficulties in the negotiation of the agriculture sector.

India and Canada restarted negotiations over the Free Trade Agreement earlier this week when Ottawa’s Trade Minister Mary Ng was hosted by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. Speaking at the event, Mr. Goyal had highlighted issues regarding agriculture that are expected to be addressed during the negotiation over the coming months. Mr. Thomas said Canada was interested in a range of items such as jewellery, textiles and spices from India that are expected to be part of the trade deal.

Canada and India began negotiation on the FTA a decade ago but the talks were stalled in the backdrop of political shifts on both sides. Mr. Thomas said that Canada sensed that possibilities for the trade deal had opened up as India had fast-pedalled similar deals with countries like Australia, the UAE, and the United Kingdom, adding, “There were times that were less than ideal. Things are back on track. Both countries want to make it work.”

Negotiations for the trade deal that were started by the two Ministers are likely to include phytosanitary measures, goods and services, rules of origin and other such issues that were also part of the recent trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Thomas highlighted commonalities between Indian and Canadian democratic traditions and said that Canada should do more trade with India in comparison with other big economies that do not follow democratic principles. “We know how important democracy is and there is a need to tie in our democratic partners. We have common laws and complementary economies,” said Mr. Thomas, who also highlighted the key role that uranium from Canada could play in giving shape to India’s aspirations for a pollution-free energy sector.

“When you look at the goals set by the Indian government in terms of carbon reduction, uranium can play a major role over the next 20-25 years,” said Mr Thomas.

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