Obhrai: Canada, India close to inking free-trade pact

Obhrai: Canada, India close to inking free-trade pact

Modi visit expected in 2015

By Robert Frank

The stage is set for Canada to sign a free-trade agreement with the second most-populous country on the planet, Deepak Obhrai told Indo-Canadian community leaders during a meeting in Dollard des Ormeaux, Sept. 7.

“We’re in our comfort zone,” the Conservative government’s parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs told The Suburban. He said that two agreements are pending: In addition to the free-trade pact, Canada has negotiated terms for a “Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA).”

Another bilateral agreement for Canada to supply potash to India is also in the works, he said in an interview.

Obhrai, whom the Hill Times ranked among Canada’s most influential foreign policymakers, added that India’s newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to pay an official visit to Canada in 2015.

Given the advanced stages of trade negotiations, the business-friendly Indian leader’s trip here could serve as an opportunity for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ink the accord ahead of a federal election which, according to the Canada Elections Act, must be held Oct. 19 next year.

No snap election

Obhrai categorically dismissed rumours that Harper will call an earlier election.

“We passed the law that specifies when the election will be held,” he replied. “Why would we want to change the date?”

India is currently Canada’s second-greatest source of immigrants, and Punjabi is now the country’s third most-spoken language, after English and French.

The timing of the prospective free trade pact is auspicious. Besides being pro-business, Modi leads India’s first majority government in two decades. That gives him a huge margin for maneuver at a time when growth is flagging in neighbouring China.
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Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), India’s ruling party, hosted Conservative government international expert Deepak Obhrai (second from left) in DDO, Sept. 7. Joining him are (left to right) businessman Dharam Pal (DP) Verma and his wife Kavshalya Verma, OFBJP national coordinator for parliamentary and legislative affairs Raman Chopra and South Asian community leader Shama Chopra.
(Photo © Robert Frank)
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