Canadian PM, Manmohan to sign trade accords; n-deal unlikely

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : India and Canada will sign new trade agreements during Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s three-day visit to India from Nov 16. However, the much-talked nuclear agreement on the lines of the US-India nuclear deal is unlikely to materialise as the two sides are still working on it, officials said.

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Accompanied by Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day and Parliamentary Secretary Deepak Obhrai, the Canadian prime minister will land in Mumbai Nov 15 after attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore.

During his meetings with the Indian prime minister, Harper is likely to sign the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) to boost bilateral trade which has been languishing at a little over $4 billion annually. Agreements on farming and energy cooperation are also likely to be inked.

Reversing its decades-old policy, Canada had backed India at the Nuclear Suppliers Groups (NSG) last year to allow it access to nuclear technology and fuel. The Canadian nuclear industry is eyeing business worth billion of dollars through sale of uranium and nuclear technology to India.

“Talks are still going on over the issue of nuclear cooperation, and negotiators from the two sides will again meet in India next week,” Indian Deputy High Commissioner Narinder Chauhan told IANS.

“But several agreements are in the pipeline, including those on energy and farming cooperation as well as social security for Indian workers coming here.

“MoUs on energy cooperation and farming are ready to stimulate our bilateral trade,” she added.

The two countries are also set to announce 2011 as the ‘Year of India in Canada’ to showcase multicultural India in Canada.

Though no trade delegation is accompanying Harper, he will meet Indian business leaders, including the Tatas, the Ambanis and Kumaramanglam Birla at a luncheon at the Trident Hotel in Mumbai Nov 16 before leaving for New Delhi.

During his two-day stay in New Delhi, Harper will ink bilateral agreements with Manmohan Singh and meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi and some cabinet ministers. He will also visit the Akshardham Temple.

Harper will also visit Amritsar to pay respects at the Golden Temple on the last day of his visit.

“This visit will definitely boost Canada’s trade with India, though we would have liked the inking of a nuclear deal,” Kam Rathee, former president of the Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC), told IANS.

“After opening more Canadian trade offices in India, Prime Minister Harper’s decision to visit New Delhi and Mumbai will pave the way for deeper economic cooperation between the two countries,” added Winnipeg-based Gujarati businessman Hemant Shah.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])