Trade pact will give $12 bn boost to Indian economy: Canadian minister

By Gyanendra Kumar Keshri, IANS,

New Delhi : The proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and Canada is estimated to give an annual boost of $12 billion to the Indian economy, says Canadian Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan.

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“We are quite excited about the agreement. It will be offering an annual benefit of $6-15 billion to our economy. The Indian economy will benefit $12 billion a year,” the minister told IANS in an interview.

India and Canada Tuesday started formal negotiations on the CEPA.

“We are going to set the architecture for how we go about the negotiation. This will not be an easy free trade agreement. It will require a lot of hard work. But I believe both countries are committed for it,” Loan said.

During their meeting on the margins of the G20 Summit in Seoul last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper decided to start negotiations for a comprehensive economic pact.

On a time-frame for completion of negotiations, Loan said: “It’s far too early to tell. Typically it takes years. Our European Union talks are expected to conclude in two years. We would be delighted if we could do something with India during the same time-frame.”

Loan said a comprehensive economic partnership agreement is likely to triple India-Canada bilateral trade to nearly $15 billion in the next five years.

“The purpose is to remove as many barriers as we can. It will significantly benefit both the economies.

“We prefer India than say countries like Japan because we have strong people-to-people ties. The one million strong Indian expatriates play a very significant role in the Canadian economy,” the minister said.

Terming the Indian expatriate community an asset to the Canadian economy, Loan said Canada would further liberalise immigration norms to make it easier for Indian students and workers to get visas.

The minister criticised growing protectionism in some rich countries, especially in the US in the wake of high unemployment.

“Even during the crisis, we continued with our liberal policies and attracted more students and workers,” he said.

With a target to double international trade by 2014, India is engaged in free trade negotiations with several countries and group of countries amid stalled talks at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

A Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between India and Japan is likely to be signed in a month, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said recently. Negotiations with the European Union and Malaysia are at an advance stage.

India recently signed a free trade pact with the 10-nation Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean). New Delhi is mulling a comprehensive economic pact with Washington.

(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be contacted at [email protected])