Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

When Narendra Modi was elected the prime minister of India in May 2014, Stephen Harper stated, “I look forward to working with Prime Minister-elect Modi and the new government of India to further strengthen our social and economic partnership to the benefit of our citizens.”

That “economic partnership” could include Canada-India “free trade” and “investment protection” agreements.

Harper has long wanted a “free trade” agreement with India. In November 2009, his government indicated it intended to conclude a Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) within four years. He promised such an agreement to voters during the 2011 election in Canada and in a January 2012 speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos he again stated, “We will work to complete negotiations on a free-trade agreement with India in 2013.”

That hasn’t happened yet, but undoubtedly Harper hopes that the Modi government will ratify the the Canada-India Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (a FIPA signed in June 2007, but never ratified), while the Canada-India Business Council sees a CEPA being signed soon.

Reuters now reports, “Indian and Canadian negotiators are rushing to iron out differences in a long-stalled foreign investment protection pact in time for Modi’s visit to the North American nation, an unnamed Indian government source… Concerns in New Delhi over certain provisions of the negotiated pact, which allow a foreign investor to sue the host country at an international dispute settlement agency, are believed to be the reason behind the deadlock.”

The Toronto Star has also reported, “A free-trade pact with India would increase sales of a Canadian exports sectors such as forest products, minerals, manufactured goods, agricultural products, fish and seafood products, machinery, construction materials, aerospace and environmental technologies, the federal government said.” In 2012, Reuters reported, “[Then energy minister Joe] Oliver said he would try to boost Canadian energy exports to India. Canada exported $1.4 billion worth of natural resources to India last year — including only $4.1 million in energy products — and Oliver said he sees great potential for more trade.”

That “potential” could also reportedly include greater Indian investment in the tar sands, uranium exports to India, and the export to India of Canadian expertise in the infrastructure for hydroelectric transmission (related to dam construction).

Modi will be visiting Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver between April 14 and 16.

The Council of Canadians opposes investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in “free trade” and “investor protection” agreements, such as the proposed Canada-India CEPA and FIPA. We call for transparent and democratic negotiations for fair trade agreements that benefit people, respect human rights and protect the environment. We reject “free trade” agreements that constrain governments from acting in the public interest and that entrench corporate rights.

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

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Brent Patterson

Brent Patterson is a political activist, writer and the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. He lives in Ottawa on the traditional, unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Algonquin...