In India to discuss trade and investment issues as part of a ministerial dialogue, Canadian Minister of International Trade FRANÇOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE, minister of international trade in the government of Canada, to Subhayan Chakraborty. Edited excerpts:
Bilateral trade has remained stagnant. Have both governments identified the reasons?
We have C$8 billion worth of bilateral trade, very balanced, with C$4 bn of export on each side. But, both nations have understood that trade is ultimately about people. Canada is blessed to have 1.4 million people of Indian origin and when we look at that, we feel we should not benchmark ourselves to the amount of trade we currently have. Rather, we should aim for and execute the potential we can reach. This will obviously be done through instruments such as the (proposed) Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA) for facilitating investments and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or the proposed free trade pact.
How exactly does Canada propose to move forward on investment discussion when India has said no bilateral investment treaty would be signed with the investor-state dispute mechanism under FIPPA in its current form?
Well, if there's a will, there's a way (chuckles). Both ministers understand that and that's the way to go.
During the deliberations, was a deadline for concluding both negotiations arrived at?
Both commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu and I have instructed our chief negotiators to work with as much enthusiasm as possible. We also suggested the rounds be shortened, so to make more progress. We want a progressive agreement when it comes to environment, labour or gender.
Canada is the partner nation for a technology summit organised by our Confederation of Indian Industry and department of science & technology this year. Do you see businesses between start-ups growing?
Based on what I saw here, I feel a lot of business is happening. There is a buzz here. There are young and dynamic people who are talking of promising ideas that are going to change the very way we function -- self-driving vehicles, new materials and even quantum computing.Those are products with enormous potential. During my time at the summit, I myself got at least 20 ideas to start a business tomorrow.
What have been the highlights of your trip?
I am also accompanying a trade delegation and am going to visit four cities. We have three Canadian ministers in town right now, who are meeting 12 Indian ministers, as well as some chief ministers. We are very serious on our relationship with India. The tech summit is the highlight, where we share technology and innovation for a better future between Canada and India.
The expected visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India has been postponed several times. Is there a chance of an official visit in the first half of 2018?
We are very grateful to receive an invitation by Prime Minister Modi for an official visit by PM Trudeau. We are still working on that, as an official visit requires a lot of engagement and logistics, but the good thing is that we are very appreciative of the offer.