A Webinar with H.E. Mr. Ajay Bisaria on Advancing the India-Canada Commercial and Economic Partnership

New Delhi : “The governments of India and Canada are strategically engaged on two critical issues. One is the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), where we have revived the conversations. The second is Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA or FIPA) where we hope to have some deliverables soon,” stated India’s High Commissioner to Canada, H.E. Mr. Ajay Bisaria.

Speaking at a special web interaction organized by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) – ‘A Webinar with H.E. Mr. Ajay Bisaria on Advancing the India-Canada Commercial and Economic Partnership’, the Indian High Commissioner stated that both governments are even thinking of a less ambitious smaller byte size agreement which can be agreed on soon.

Bilateral trade of goods and services between India and Canada has increased to cross US $10 billion and institutional investments have expanded rapidly from US $5 billion in 2015 to over US $55 billion in 2020, Mr. Bisaria informed, emphasising that vast potential remains untapped between the two trading nations with strong complementarities and free market economies.

“The Big story has been the Canadian investments in India by firms like Fairfax and Brookfield. India has now over US $55 Billion commitments from Canadian investors in the Indian economy. This, itself is a huge factor which defines lot of opportunities that are available in India. This money is going into infrastructure, real estate, energy, logistics and now also in Startups,” the High Commissioner said referring to the increasing capital fund investments from Canada. Canadian investors prefer to invest in India as against the OECD countries, as India offers promising return rates, or IRRs in the range of 10-20% and favourable exit options, in comparison to the mere 2-4 % returns most OECD countries offer, he informed.

The High Commissioner emphasised the important role of the Indian diaspora in Canada. Indian human capital that Canada is harnessing from India is a unique part of the India-Canada story. India, today is the largest source country for immigrants in Canada. The Indian diaspora is 1.6 million and fast growing. This diaspora is doing exceedingly well in leadership positions in business, politics, culture, and academia. “One other important factor is the education opportunities – Indian students coming into Canada, near 2,30,000 in number and bring in $5 billion of tuition fee annually,” Mr. Bisaria informed.

India and Canada have been strategic partners since Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Canada in 2015 and the strategic engagement has escalated under the Trudeau 2.0 and Modi 2.0 era since both leaders came back to power in 2019, Mr. Bisaria informed. Committed to pluralism and democracy, and holding convergent views around reformed multilateralism and globalisation, India and Canada are principally trading nations with significant complementarities.

“In times of the pandemic, both sides have been engaged in conversation on vaccines, IT and digitization accelerated by the pandemic. Post pandemic, we feel there would be opportunities in about five major sectors and three new areas namely pharma, steel pipes, chemicals, agro products, automotive parts along with traditional sectors like clothing, textiles, furnishing, furniture. But one other new sector which is important is Canada’s large market ($22 billion) for public procurement of goods and services,” the High Commissioner said.

Mr. Bisaria also expressed confidence that greater opportunities await both countries in view of the India’s recent economic reforms, touted as the 2nd generation economic reforms in labor, agriculture, and FDI norms, aimed to boost manufacturing, infrastructure and logistics and offer India as an attractive investment destination and player in global supply chains as envisioned in Prime Minister’s clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).

Collaboration between India and Canada in Information Technology, Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare, HealthTech, Engineering, Aviation, Transportation, Food Processing, Education, Agriculture and Agritech holds vast opportunities in the coming years. Canada’s state-of-the-art technologies in agriculture must be leveraged by India to revolutionise agricultural production and techniques, the High Commissioner advised.

Mr. Vineet Agarwal, Senior Vice – President, ASSOCHAM, and Managing Director, Transport Corporation of India Ltd. in his welcome remarks highlighted the vibrant and attractive image that Canada has as an inclusive and advanced society focussing on skill, talent and technology, and this is what makes the country a most loved destination for Indians, whether for immigration, education or business, he added.

Mr. Agarwal emphasised the vast opportunities for collaboration in logistics and infrastructure. To realise the vision of a self-reliant nation and emerge as an attractive alternative in diversifying global supply chains during and post COVID-19, “India must leverage Canadian expertise in the engineering, infrastructure, and transportation space to leapfrog and develop a multimodal logistics hub with world class railways, coastal hubs, forwarding services, cold-chains et al. Expressing his hope for an early conclusion of a trade agreement between India and Canada”, Mr. Agarwal said, “ASSOCHAM in its 100th year is committed to catalysing the Indian industry’s outreach globally and will continue to support industry and government for enhancing the India-Canada business corridor.”

The Secretary-General of ASSOCHAM, Mr. Deepak Sood hailed the active engagement of the Indian High Commissioner to strategically promote the dialogue between India and Canada. He emphasised the outstanding presence and contribution of the Indian diaspora in Canada, and laid emphasis on fostering greater people-to-people and cultural ties as an enabler in the India-Canada partnership in the future.

“India must harness the requirement of human capital in Canada and position itself as a major supplier of manpower to Canada. For India, such a flow translates into increased remittances from Canada which lends strength to India’s domestic economy,” Mr. Sood said. Likewise, Canada can be a good source of technical and knowledge inflow into India, especially in sectors including AI, IoT, SaaS and other advanced technologies, aerospace, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, clean energy, water management and automotive.

The industry panel was led by Mr. Jagdish Mitra, Chief Strategic officer and Head of Growth, of Indian IT giant Tech Mahindra. While sharing the successes of Tech Mahindra in Canada, he said Canada offers significant opportunities for creation and collaboration of talent pools and the Canadian government’s focus on technology, education and overall Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) creates a winsome ambience for Indian businesses, especially in the IT sector. Tech Mahindra has taken advantage of this and forged strong partnerships with Canadian companies across sectors including banks, manufacturing setups, oil and gas, telecom, and transportation equipment. Tech Mahindra has three centers in Canada employing nearly 2,000 people, of which 60% are locally hired associates.

Sharing his views on the future potential of India-Canada commercial engagement, Mr. Mitra said enormous opportunities await in collaboration in the digitisation and innovation space. “During the pandemic, digital transformation is happening at the speed of light, customers want deployment, digital scale, speed and scope. ‘Factories of the Future’ with IoT enablement, industrial solutions, automation, smart centers, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, integrating IT collaboration with telecom industry with 5G domain offer a vast space for cooperation,” Mitra informed.

Sharing details of the successful India footprint of Canadian IT firm Solace Corporation in India, Mr. Arvind Khurana, Regional Vice President – Indian Subcontinent, informed that Solace has been present in India in the data integration and scale space since 2013. Solace is headquartered in Ottawa in Canada and was founded in 2001.The company has offices across India in the major metro cities including Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore and has been working with the Government of India, Bombay Stock Exchange, National Stock Exchange, Income Tax e-filing, and other important clients including a major Indian bank and telecom giants Jio and Airtel.

“India has a very strategic focus for us, and we have our Global Centre of Excellence based at Bangalore which helps the Indian customers as well as global customers. It’s all about real-time data and achieving scale in India, and that’s where we will continue to contribute to India’s Digitisation Plan by providing custom-built hardware appliances as well as software and Cloud solutions,” Khurana said.

Mr. Rajeev Joisar, Managing Director – Bombardier Transportation, said the company has been providing safe, reliable, quality transportation system in India since the year 2000. Bombardier has built the first private park facility in India under the Delhi Metro Project phase II project. The company has witnessed robust growth in India in the last two decades and now has two world class manufacturing facilities in Gujarat, a global design engineering centre in Hyderabad, a signalling and information centre in Gurgaon, and several service teams deployed around the country. “Bombardier has contributed to the “Make in India” story and we are closely following Prime Minister Modi’s call for Atmanirbhar Bharat. In most of our contracts, the local businesses are present with more than 70 – 75% share. In true sense, we are ‘Vocal for Local’ and also ‘Local for Global’. We are proud to provide a platform on which more than 5 million people are traveling every day,” Mr. Joisar added.

Mr. Akshay Chaturvedi – SVP & Head – Corporate & Commercial Banking, ICICI Bank Canada, shared the story of ICICI Bank’s role and expanse in the India-Canada corridor since 2003. The bank serves as an important enabler of business houses on both sides looking to expand in trade and services in the India-Canada corridor by facilitating financial services and soft loans to incoming Indian immigrants, permanent residents and students, and businesses setting shop in Canada.

“We are the only bank that opens your account even before your landing in Canada and facilitates activation and crediting money into the account prior to arrival. The creditworthiness of accountholders in Indian banks is also valid for opening accounts with us in Canada. Whether you are an individual or a company, your credibility in India continues here,” Chaturvedi said. The bank also caters to potential Canadian long-term investors through its facilities and schemes in India.

Summing up the conversation, Mr. Sood highlighted the capability, determination and prowess of India and how the country emerged tall during the pandemic by providing humanitarian assistance and pharmaceutical supplies to countries across the globe. “From zero manufacturing of masks and PPEs before the pandemic, Indian companies moved swiftly to manufacture articles akin not only for the domestic market but for exporting to several countries,” he added.

The Secretary General expressed confidence that with concerted efforts from industry and government on both sides, India-Canada trade should grow 3x in the next five years, with more partnerships and joint ventures between MSMEs on both sides. He assured the full support and collaboration of ASSOCHAM to industry and government in rigorously promoting India-Canada business ties.