India’s commitment to EPTA with Canada ‘huge’: High Commissioner

Updated on Dec 30, 2022 04:49 PM IST

Hindustan Times earlier this month reported on the possibility of the formalisation of the pact, which is an intermediate step towards a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), by September 2023

New Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma (left) with Sameer Zuberi, MP for Pierrefonds-Dollard in the province of Quebec, at the diplomatic mission in Ottawa, Canada. (TWITTER)
New Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma (left) with Sameer Zuberi, MP for Pierrefonds-Dollard in the province of Quebec, at the diplomatic mission in Ottawa, Canada. (TWITTER)

The Indian High Commissioner to Ottawa reiterated on Thursday New Delhi’s commitment to an Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA).

“I hope we’ll see it getting settled sooner, most likely next year itself,” Sanjay Kumar Verma told media on Thursday.

Hindustan Times earlier this month reported on the possibility of the formalisation of the pact, which is an intermediate step towards a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), by September 2023, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits India for the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

“We’ll work towards reaching an agreement which is enriching to both the sides,” Verma said.

He said, as with any free trade agreement, there are five principal elements that are being discussed by negotiator: trade in goods, trade in services, investments, trade facilitation, customs facilitation, standards and norms. But as the EPTA is envisaged as an early harvest agreement, these matters are not being explored with the granularity the CEPA would attract, and the discussions are focused on issues which can be “fast-tracked”.

He said while it will be “good” to have an agreement in place, it has not inhibited growth in bilateral trade in recent years. Citing figures for goods exports from India to Canada, he pointed out that while it stood at CA$5.97 billion (US$4.41 billion) last year, it has jumped to CA$6.95 billion (US$5.14 billion) between just January and October this year, which extrapolates to CA$8.34 billion (US$6.16 billion) by the end of 2022, which is “an increase of close to 40%”.

But, he added, “we should not rest on laurels, we have to move ahead and that is why EPTA will become very important.”

He noted that five rounds of negotiations have already taken place in Ottawa and New Delhi, since talks commenced this year, with more dialogue ahead in January and February.

Verma, who was India’s Ambassador to Japan before being posted to Canada, also described Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, released this November, as a “very welcome sign”.

He said that any enhanced engagement between Canada and the region “will certainly focus on India” and that “this has also been brought out in the document itself”.

That policy document notes, “India’s growing strategic, economic and demographic importance in the Indo-Pacific makes it a critical partner in Canada’s pursuit of its objectives under this strategy.”

“We look forward to enhanced cooperation between India and Canada to take things forward,” Verma said. He said the Canadian policy was also “convergent” with the objectives of the Quad, the grouping that includes India, the United States, Japan and Australia.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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