Indians are set to become Canada's largest immigrant group by 2009 even as Ottawa seeks to make India a priority country in its global business strategy, a top Canadian official said on Monday.
"We are putting finishing touches on what we call a global commerce strategy and completing an assessment of markets and opportunities among our many trading partners," said Ted Menzies, Canada's parliamentary secretary to the minister for international trade.
"India is at top of our list. We will have within the global commerce strategy an ambitious and targeted approach for India," said Menzies, who is on a visit to India, filling in for International Trade Minister David Emerson, who was taken ill and could not come.
He said over 700,000 people of Indian origin have made Canada their home and that their contribution to their country of adoption has been profound and direct, with greater potential in store.
"If projections hold, India, currently Canada's number two source of immigrants, will be number one by 2009. The Indian contribution to our spectacular Canadian mosaic will grow stronger and the ties between our countries can grow stronger."
According to the official, the merchandise trade between the two countries stood at $3.6 billion in 2006 - thanks to a 54 percent increase in the country's exports to India valued at $1.7 billion - the highest increase in 15 years.
He said the story was similar in the case of bilateral investment, with India now emerging as an important source of capital for the country, and cited the examples of new investments in Canada by the Birlas, ICICI Bank and Satyam Computers.
"One of our first priorities will be a high-quality foreign investment promotion and protection agreement," he said, adding: "We believe we can increase Indian investment in Canada five-fold by 2010."
Menzies also offered help in infrastructure where India is seeking investment of $320 billion over the next 10 years. "Infrastructure is one of our priority sectors," he said.
"India's dramatic growth has placed a burden on existing facilities and a lack of infrastructure is constraining both expansion of the economy and dispersion of the benefits of economic progress," he said.
"Canada can help. We have strong and reputable companies in every aspect of construction, architecture, design, engineering and telecommunications."