The anticipated trade mission to India, previously deemed integral to the government’s Indo-Pacific scheme by Canada’s Federal Trade Minister Mary Ng, has been put on hold indefinitely. The decision to delay the visit to Mumbai, originally slated for Oct. 9, is shrouded in ambiguity, as Ng’s office refrained from offering any explicit reasoning.
In Mumbai, Ng and accompanying Canadian business administrators had intended to spend five days forging relationships with their counterparts in the densely populated nation. This visit, recognized as a “Team Canada” trade mission, was set to address the momentary pause in trade negotiations with India.
Notably, the postponed visit follows a period of growing tension between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his colleague in New Delhi and a hold placed on ongoing trade discussions. Further strain was experienced when Trudeau prewarned he would address worries over India’s foreign interference in Canada during his recent visit.
This decision to demur from concluding trade negotiations was disclosed only a fortnight ago by India’s envoy to Canada. Despite the unfolding unease, neither country has supplied an in-depth elucidation of the situation.
Surprisingly, Ng sidestepped any mention of the trade talks or mission during her opening and closing remarks in her virtual meeting with provincial and territorial contemporaries on Friday. She simply stated that, “We had productive and candid conversations. It’s the kind of teamwork that I think Canadians have the right to expect from us.” She declined further inquiries due to scheduling constraints.
In a somewhat contrasting tone, Saskatchewan Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison accused Ottawa of keeping provinces in the dark for months over the trade dialogue status. Moreover, he disputed Ng’s claim that these negotiations are simply ‘on pause.’
Highlighting the significance of the trade deal for Saskatchewan, known for significant exportation of commodities like lentils to India, Harrison contended that they could have leveraged their good rapport with Indian officials to contend with any emergent negotiation battles.
In amidst these developments, Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai was independently on a trade mission to Asia in India, while India’s foreign ministry accentuated its enduring qualms about Sikh separatists in Canada.
The first Asian trade mission under Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy was projected to bolster Canadian clean-technology firms, meeting India’s thirst for renewable energy. As the fastest-growing major economy in 2022, India is a significant player in economic, strategic and demographic terms in the Indo-Pacific. Consequently, it remains pivotal to Canada’s endeavors under the Indo-Pacific strategy.
The trip’s purpose was underlined by the Trade Commissioner Service as aiming to hike trade activities in sectors like automotive, agriculture, digital technology, infrastructure, and life sciences, among others. It involved networking with Indian business leaders, briefings from senior officials and industry pundits, and roundtable sessions with local industry experts.
The Business Council of Canada, a proponent of augmented trade with India, accentuated the mutual benefits the two countries derived from commerce. They stressed that political tensions would not inhibit ongoing business operations that bolster job creation, economic growth, and improved living standards for Canadians.
Finally, Ng’s office clarified on Friday that there are still six Team Canada trade missions scheduled to visit various destinations from Japan to Vietnam, emphasizing the underlying principle of Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy.