India and Canada renew trade talks in the aftermath of two Michaels China troubles
Canada is seeking to lessen its economic dependence on China and diversify into new Asian markets.
Canada and India are quietly setting the stage to reboot formal free trade talks as the Trudeau government seeks economic alternatives to China following the dispute over the Meng Wanzhou-two Michaels affair.
Trade negotiators from both countries have held four “consultative meetings” in the last year via video, and the most recent one in October saw the two sides trade preliminary proposals, said Anshuman Gaur, India’s deputy high commissioner to Canada.
“They talked about the approaches and the possible path forward,” he said in an interview this past week.
The renewed engagement is a result of India’s aggressive new trade policy, dubbed “early harvest,” which has seen the country attempt to make incremental steps towards full-scale free trade deals with Britain, the European Union, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and now Canada.
It also comes as the federal government emerges from the aftermath of its three-year diplomatic deep freeze with China after Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were recently returned safely to Canada. They spent more than 1,000 days in Chinese prisons in what is widely viewed as retaliation for the RCMP’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant in 2018.
Canada is seeking to lessen its economic dependence on China and diversify into new Asian markets. It recently launched formal trade talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — known as ASEAN — a 10-country bloc that includes the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.
The Liberal government’s Nov. 23 throne speech acknowledged that priority when it said: “A changing world requires adapting and expanding diplomatic engagement. Canada will continue working with key allies and partners, while making deliberate efforts to deepen partnerships in the Indo-Pacific and across the Arctic.”
International Trade Minister Mary Ng discussed the possible deal with her Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, this past summer in Rome at a meeting of the G20.
“India and Canada, absolutely, I think have opportunities to deepen our commercial and trade relationship,” Ng said in an interview.
Canada began trade talks with India more than a decade ago under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. The on-off process stopped again in 2018 when Canada was in the middle of its intense renegotiation of the North American Free Trade agreement with the U.S. and Mexico that was instigated by former American president Donald Trump.
Like China’s leader, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been widely criticized for perpetuating human rights abuses, including in a September Human Rights Watch report that accused his government of subjecting its critics to surveillance, politically motivated prosecutions, harassment, online trolling, tax raids and the shutting down of activist groups.