(Ottawa) Canada is postponing a trade mission to India that federal Trade Minister Mary Ng had presented for four months as a centerpiece of the government’s recent Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Minister Ng’s spokesperson Shanti Cosentino confirmed in an email Friday that the mission was postponed “for the time being.”
Mme Ng was scheduled to lead a five-day “Team Canada” trade mission to Mumbai starting October 9. The minister was to be accompanied by business leaders and representatives of Canadian provinces, in order to establish links with their counterparts in the most populous country in the world.
The Canadian Press has asked Minister Ng’s office to explain why the trip was postponed, but has not yet received a response.
But Canada recently suspended negotiations to conclude a trade agreement with India. And relations between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Indian counterpart were frosty during the recent G20 summit in New Delhi.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met briefly with Mr. Trudeau last Sunday, on the sidelines of the summit. The report of this brief interview provided by the office of the Indian Prime Minister specifies that Mr. Modi focused on Sikh separatists in Canada.
Before arriving in New Delhi, Mr. Trudeau told reporters he would raise concerns about India’s interference in Canada.
Minister Ng did not mention the trade mission to India – either in her opening or closing remarks – on Friday as she participated in a meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts.
Earlier this week, the Saskatchewan government lamented that Ottawa had left the provinces in the dark for months on the status of trade negotiations with India.
“We had productive and frank conversations,” said M.me Ng after Friday’s meeting. This is the kind of teamwork that I think Canadians have a right to expect from us. » She did not respond to journalists’ questions “due to her schedule,” according to her office.
The meeting was held virtually as Mrme Ng announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19 that morning.
Two weeks ago, Indian High Commissioner to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma revealed that Ottawa had suspended negotiations for a trade deal. Neither country has since provided a detailed explanation for this “pause” in negotiations.
Late last week, the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “deep concerns” about Sikh separatists in Canada, who want to create their own state, “Khalistan”, in the Punjab region of India.
New Delhi has long argued that Canada is undermining India’s national security by giving free rein to separatist groups, described as an “extremist movement.”
Ottawa responds that freedom of expression means that groups can express their political opinions as long as they are not violent. But the government also denounced the threats of these groups against Indian diplomats in Canada and offered the emissaries 24-hour security.
The trade mission, the first to Asia as part of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, aimed to boost Canadian “clean technology” companies to help meet India’s renewable energy needs.
A description of the trip posted on the Trade Commissioner Service website says India was the fastest-growing major economy in 2022.
“India’s growing strategic, economic and demographic importance in the Indo-Pacific region makes it a critical partner in pursuing Canada’s objectives under the Indo-Pacific Strategy,” the notice reads. online to encourage Canadian business leaders to join Minister Ng’s trip.
The federal Trade Commissioner Service said the mission also aims to increase trade in sectors such as automobiles, agriculture and value-added foods, digital technology, infrastructure and life sciences.
There was also a focus on networking with Indian business leaders, briefings from senior officials and key industry players, as well as roundtable discussions with industry and local experts. .
Minister Ng’s office noted Friday that Team Canada trade missions were still planned for six destinations, ranging from Japan to Vietnam.
“Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy provides the framework for Canadian businesses, established and new, to develop and grow in dynamic Pacific markets,” wrote Mr.me Cosentino.