After a gap of almost four years, India and Canada are expected to formally return to parleys later this month to explore the possibility of signing a mini-trade deal. The two sides have been negotiating a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) since 2010 with the latest round of negotiations held in August 2017. “At that time, constructive discussions were held on various issues, including cross-border trade in goods and services, e-commerce, telecommunications, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and technical barriers to trade. Since then, Canadian and Indian officials have held several stocktaking meetings, most recently in November 2020.
“We have held several rounds of virtual discussions with the Canadian side since June last year. In October, a bilateral meeting was held to explore the option of an early harvest or interim agreement. In this regard, a scoping paper has been shared with the Canadian side. A formal round of negotiations is likely to happen sometime in late April,” a commerce ministry official said under condition of anonymity.
India has been keen to sign mini-trade deals with the EU and the UK, but not much headway has been made so far. Most countries are keen to sign comprehensive free trade agreements with India rather than early harvest deals. India’s long-drawn negotiations for a mini-trade deal with the US also didn’t work out.
As Canada is not a large market for Indian goods, India is keen to have a strong services agreement under the proposed CEPA. India is interested in creating more jobs for its teeming IT professionals, by facilitating easier work visas for Canada under the trade agreement. Canada, a major producer of pulses, is keen to increase its Agri exports to India. The two sides also need to resolve the issue of signing an investment treaty.
In FY20, India’s exports to Canada stood at $2.8 billion and imports at $3.9 billion, leaving a trade deficit of $1.1 billion. Among major items, India exports medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes, semi-milled or wholly milled rice, plastics articles parts and accessories for tractors and medium motor vehicles, among others., while it imports coal, potassium chloride, petroleum oils, and lentils.
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