NEW DELHI: A week ahead of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, which is being attended by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, Canada has announced that it was pausing its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with India.
“The Canadian side conveyed that they were taking a pause in India-Canada negotiations on the Early Progress Trade Agreement,” news agency PTI quoted an official as saying.
While commerce and industry ministry officials said these talks would resume, they have also said that this cool-off period would help the two countries take stock of the progress.
Over half a dozen rounds of talks have been held between the two countries on the trade agreement so far.
In May, there were officials from India and Canada negotiating an interim deal covering goods, services, rules of origin, technical barriers to trade, and dispute settlement. The target of completion was 2023-end. This would have been followed by the India-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
The interim negotiation with Canada — also called the Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) — was said to have been progressing fast. The seventh of negotiations for EPTA was held in Ottawa in April. India-Canada bilateral trade in goods reached about $8.2 billion in 2022, registering about 25% growth compared to 2021.
Meanwhile, the reason for this pause is said to be the stalemate India and Canada had on issues such as rules of origin and some tariffs.
India is negotiating trade agreements with the United Kingdom and the European Union, and expanding its early harvest trade pact with Australia into a larger free trade agreement.
Even though India and Canada are strategic partners, in the past few years, there have been concerns that India has often raised about the pro-Khalistani elements in Canada. These cases have led to diplomats being harassed and graffiti being made against India appearing in different parts of Canada.
PM Trudeau’s official trip to India in February 2018 did not go down well with India after an invite was sent to a Khalistani separatist Jaspal Atwal for Trudeau’s reception organised in Delhi.
Recently, Trudeau had raised objections to India not extending an invitation to Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy and had said that when he came for the G20 Summit to Delhi, he would raise the Ukraine issue.
Think tank Global Research Initiative (GTRI) co-founder Ajay Srivastava said that halting of India-Canada free trade agreement negotiations does not harm Indian trade interests as more than half of Indian products already enter Canada duty-free and would not have benefitted from this pact.