Address by Minister Fast to Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention for the Indian Diaspora

Business Prospects Between Canada and India

No. 2011/21 - Toronto, Ontario - June 9, 2011

Check Against Delivery

It’s a pleasure to be here for this round-table discussion.

I’d like to begin by welcoming our Indian friends to Canada, and to the great city of Toronto.

I look forward to hearing some new perspectives today on how we can grow the Canada-India partnership in the years to come.

Holding this year’s PBD [Pravasi Bharatiya Divas] event here in Canada is a great start.

As cities like Toronto prove—not to mention cities in my home province of British Columbia and across the country—Canada is home to a significant Indian diaspora.

Close to one million people of Indian descent call Canada home.

They’ve enriched every part of our national life—from the arts and culture, to science and technology, to the business realm.

Canada is proud of their contributions. And we recognize their presence as a great advantage for Canada, as we build new opportunities with India in a number of areas.

That’s what this event is all about. I’m glad to see that trade and investment are key topics.

Jobs and economic growth are our government’s top priority.

With trade representing some 60 percent of our economy, deepening our commercial partnerships is vital to Canada’s economic growth in the years to come.

That includes our partnership with India. In fact, we’re on the verge of an exciting new chapter in our partnership that will create new opportunities and sources of prosperity in both countries.

Canadians understand that trade is, fundamentally, a “kitchen-table” issue—an issue that concerns jobs, and how people put food on the table and provide for their families.

It’s the same story in India—a country that has embraced the global economy and, through trade, is giving rise to a new generation of entrepreneurs, investors and innovators who are making their country a force to be reckoned with.

As India’s economy continues to grow, and as the country sharpens its focus on creating jobs and alleviating poverty, trade can play a key role.

India’s bilateral trade with Canada is a good example. It totalled $4.2 billion last year. And 2010 was also a banner year for our two-way investment, which reached $7 billion.

Investors are showing a great degree of confidence in both countries’ markets—an excellent sign.

This confidence extends to the capabilities of Canadian companies.

Look at the $2.3 billion contract SNC-Lavalin won to build a new metro line in Mumbai—a prime example of what Canada can offer our Indian partners.

I was also very interested to learn about the close partnership enjoyed by our researchers and scientists from both countries. They’re working together in areas like green energy, biotech and high technology—all areas of great commercial potential.

We also hope to soon ratify an agreement on nuclear energy—something Canada’s nuclear industry is very excited about.

This is truly a great start. But we want to do more.

Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper has made it clear that forging even closer Canada-India economic ties is a top priority of our government.

This commitment was reiterated by the Prime Minister during the recent federal election, and it remains a top priority now that Canadians have given us a strong mandate to move Canada forward.

Last year, during the G-20 Summit here in Toronto, prime ministers Harper and [Manmohan] Singh announced the conclusion of a study that examined the potential of free trade between our countries.

The potential is great, with expected export gains of about 50 percent.

Think of all the jobs supported by our partnership now—and what these gains would mean for job creation in the years to come.

As our economies continue on the path to recovery, this agreement couldn’t come at a better time.

We launched official free trade negotiations with India in November. The first round of talks has been successfully completed, and the second round is scheduled to be held very soon, in early July.

Our recent throne speech underscored our government’s commitment to completing the negotiations in 2013.

Trade negotiations are never easy. With the level of cooperation we’ve seen so far and with the support from all of you—Canadians and friends from India—in encouraging government officials to bring these various negotiations to a successful conclusion, I’m sure we’ll get there.

Speaking of great signs, I just mentioned the record level of two-way investment we reached last year.

Here again, we think we can do better. That’s why we’re negotiating a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with India that will benefit investors in both countries.

I can tell you that Canadian investors are very excited about opportunities in the Indian market. And we’re glad that Indian investors are increasingly looking to Canada’s many economic strengths.

These investors need to know just how attractive a place Canada is for their investment dollars.

While the global economic recovery remains fragile and economic turmoil persists in many parts of the world, Canada is an oasis of stability—home to what the World Economic Forum has said is the world’s most stable banking system, a modest yet responsible regulatory environment, and a low-tax, investment-friendly business climate.

But we also know that commercial opportunities don’t simply appear out of thin air. They happen because people make an effort to work together to forge new partnerships.

Making these connections is what our Trade Commissioner Service is all about. Trade commissioners work out of more than 150 cities worldwide—and in 18 regional offices in Canada, including right here in Toronto.

These trade and investment professionals represent every possible sector. They’re working closely with companies, offering advice and assistance, and helping them succeed abroad.

They’re also good points of contact for our Indian partners looking to tap into Canada’s many business advantages.

That’s why our government opened three new trade offices in India in 2009—in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Ahmedabad.

That brings the total number of Canadian trade offices in India to eight—one of Canada’s largest trade networks anywhere.

This is a great sign of Canada’s commitment to India—and our excitement about the potential in this important global market.

So too is a new visa process available to Indians who travel to Canada frequently. After an initial visa screening, applicants can get a visa that allows them to visit Canada often—as long as their passports are valid—for up to 10 years.

This is great news for Indian business people travelling to Canada. It will no doubt lead to more partnerships that will benefit both of our countries.

We can be proud of what we’ve accomplished through our partnership over the years: strong levels of trade and investment; close cooperation in science and technology; and a growing sense of what we can offer each other in a host of important industries.

Canada believes that the time has come to take the next step, and to grow this partnership for the future.

By working with people like those present today, I have every confidence that we can achieve this goal.

Let’s work together to create the jobs and opportunities Canadians and Indians are looking for in the years to come.

Thank you.