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Canada’s new PM urged to fast-track free trade agreement with India

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Toronto: Welcoming the incoming Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau whose Liberal Party was swept to power yesterday, major Indo-Canadian organizations have urged him to fast-track the long-pending free trade agreement with India.

Ajit Someshawar, chairman of the Canada-India Foundation (CIF), urged Trudeau to make a state visit to India as one of his foreign policy priorities and conclude the long-pending Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) between the Canada and India.

Canada and India have agreed to triple their trade to $15 billion, but the progress has been tardy even as the visit by Modi – the first by any Indian PM in 42 years – here in April and two trips to India by his Canadian counterpart have reinforced this pledge.

“The growth in bilateral trade between the two countries has still not reached its full potential and even the modest goal of $15 billion annually is still far away,” said the chairman of the Canada-India Foundation which has honoured many great Indians such as former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Ratan Tata, Narayana Murthy and Deepak Chopra with its annual CIF Chanchlani Global Indian Award of $50,000 since its inception in 2008.

Someshawar also urged the Canada’s new PM to reinforce the Canada-India Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group to bring parliamentarians of the two countries together.He also welcomed the new Family Class Reunification plan announced by the incoming government as it will help the 1.2-million-strong Indo-Canadian community to bring their dependents into Canada quickly.

Canada-India Business Council (C-IBC) vice-chairman Kam Rathee also urged the new Canadian Prime Minister to conclude the long-pending free trade agreement with India on a priority basis.

“The new prime minister should also set in motion a process to develop trade investment and services so that non-profit associations and organizations that promote Canada-India business get financial support,” added Rathee.

Ramesh Chotai, whose Bromed Pharmaceuticals is the biggest Canadian importer of pharmaceutical raw material from India, echoed similar views.

He also said, “Mr. Trudeau’s elevation to become the next Prime Minister of Canada brought back sweet memories for me. I came to Canada as refugee from Idi Amin’s Uganda, thanks to the policy decisions made by Mr. Trudeau’s father and former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I am eternally grateful to the senior Mr. Trudeau, whose forward thinking immigration and refugee policies have made Canada the great country it is, now reflected in the diversity of the newly elected House of Commons (which now has 19 Indo-Canadians).”

(Gurmukh Singh, IANS)

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As The Election Nears, India’s Opposition Promises Several Economic Steps

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a "desperate alliance," while the BJP would give a "strong government."

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Rahul Gandhi, Election
Rahul Gandhi, president of India's main opposition Congress Party, speaks at a rally ahead of October's 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

India’s main opposition Congress Party will simplify the goods and services tax (GST) and make “rational economic decisions” to attract foreign investment if voted back to power in a general election due by May, leader Rahul Gandhi said Saturday.

Launched in 2017, the GST was initially hailed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest economic reform as it replaced more than a dozen federal and state levies and unified Asia’s third-largest economy.

But its chaotic implementation and complexities — months after a shock ban by Modi on high-value bank currency aimed at unearthing untaxed wealth — badly hurt small businesses and led to millions of job losses in the cash-driven economy, presenting the biggest challenge to Modi’s re-election chances.

India,India, elections, BJP
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents in New Delhi, India. VOA

 

Gandhi, scion of India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, said during a visit to Dubai that foreign investment was at a multiyear low in India because of the “ill-advised and badly thought out economic moves” such as the currency ban and a “poorly designed GST.”

Quick growth promised

“We will take some rational economic decisions,” he told a press conference, which was broadcast live on Twitter. “We will restructure the GST and we will embrace investments from the Middle East and other parts of the world. We are the party of [India’s economic] liberalization; we are the party that gave the fastest economic growth in the first decade of the century, and will do that again.”

He said his main priority would be to create jobs, simplify the GST, rebuild confidence in institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India — whose governor resigned recently after a fight over autonomy with the government, and the Supreme Court.

Modi, election
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

 

Four Supreme Court judges held a rare press conference early last year, saying that “unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country.”

Modi told a BJP convention in New Delhi on Saturday that for Congress “every institution was wrong and only they were right.”

The Congress press conference was organized by the Indian Overseas Congress, which is present in about 35 countries, as Gandhi tries to reach out to rich Indians living abroad for funds and social media support for the party that has dominated the country’s politics for decades before being nearly decimated in the last general election in 2014 by Modi.

But back home, Gandhi received a jolt when bitter rivals, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), announced an election tie-up without Congress in Uttar Pradesh state, which sends the highest number of lawmakers to the lower house of parliament.

Narendra Modi, India, election
Elaborate preparations for PM’s election rally. VOA

“The BSP and SP have made a political decision,” Gandhi said. “It’s on us on how to strengthen the Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh and we will fight with our full capacity. Whether we do or their alliance does, the BJP is not winning there.”

Also Read:China, India Keen on Joint Ventures For e-vehicles

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a “desperate alliance,” while the BJP would give a “strong government.”

The Hindu nationalist BJP lost power in three key states recently, forcing the government to announce a flurry of measures to woo small businesses and the less well-off since then. (VOA)