India, Canada sign pact to protect trade, investment

By Paras Ramoutar, IANS

Toronto : In a bid to push bilateral economic relations, India and Canada have signed a long-awaited pact to protect and promote investments made by their companies in each other's country, officials said.

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The agreement, concluded over the weekend, calls for protection of investments made by Indian and Canadian companies from appropriation and nationalisation, repatriation of profits and access to international arbitration to settle disputes.

"India offers an enormous opportunity that we as a country must take advantage of. We've got something in the neighbourhood of a million Indo-Canadians here," said Canada's International Trade Minister David Emerson.

"They're natural bridge to that market. And we've under-performed our potential for a decade or more," Emerson told reporters here, adding that the pact signed allows Canada to look at other markets and become less dependent on the US.

"With 80 percent of exports going into the US, we do need to grow other markets and diversify our trade basket," he said, after signing the pact with his Indian counterpart Kamal Nath.

Bilateral Trade between India and Canada amounted to (Canadian) $3.6 billion in 2006, and officials believe the pact will lead to trade flows jumping to $20 billion annually over the next few years.

The agreement lists several opportunities for Canadian businesses in areas such as financial services, information technology and infrastructure. Canada expects India to reciprocate in similar ways.