Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal hinted on Wednesday that an Early Progress Trade Agreement, or EPTA, with Canada might be finalised this year.
During a media appearance in Toronto, Goyal, who is on a bilateral visit to Canada, stated that completing the agreement by 2023 is "not beyond the realm of possibility."
"I'm usually very optimistic, but I do wish it was much faster than that," he continued. "We're working hard to ensure an early conclusion to the Early Progress Trade Agreement, which we believe will send a strong signal to businesses on both sides in terms of our desire for leaders of both governments to expand business and investment partnerships," he said.
He stated that his meetings with his Canadian colleague, International Trade Minister Mary Ng, "even though informal, were quite substantive and have moved the needle on a fast-track basis."
Goyal also stated that "speed" was essential, but he did not want to establish a timeframe for finalising the agreement since it "pays to be pragmatic, practical, and careful."
He did note that the talks had lasted "longer than I would like an FTA (free trade agreement) negotiation to last." They've already had seven rounds."
"We've both agreed that sensitivities on both sides will be respected and recognised," he added, adding that this was what sealed the deals with Australia and the UAE. In reality, the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, which entered into force in December, is beneficial since it "generates confidence" and provides Ottawa with "a template to look at" given Canada and Australia's commonalities.
Ng was also upbeat, tweeting, "Our trade agreements open the doors for businesses to walk through." Both ministers attended a reception hosted by the Canada-India Business Council in Toronto. She indicated that she will lead a trade mission from Canada to India in October or November of this year, but the ministers will meet before that in Jaipur, where she will attend the G20 trade vertical in August.
According to a press statement from her office, "the ministers made progress on key trade initiatives, such as ongoing talks towards an Early Progress Trade Agreement."
"They reaffirmed that EPTA would cover shared areas of importance such as high-level commitments in goods, investment, and services, a focus on rules-based international order, technical trade barriers, and dispute settlement," the statement continued.
It also stated that they shared a commitment to increase collaboration in crucial industries such as essential minerals, clean technology, renewable energy, and artificial intelligence. They addressed how they will continue to collaborate to coordinate investment promotion, information sharing, and mutual assistance between Canada and India via a Memorandum of Understanding later this year.
The ministers addressed how Canada and India may continue to collaborate on investment promotion, information sharing, and mutual assistance through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) later this year.
Goyal also stated that the Ministerial Dialogue on Trade and Investment, or MDTI, produced numerous achievements, including the relaunch of the CEO Forum "in a more outcome-oriented and aggressive manner." Both nations are considering a collaboration between their investment promotion authorities "to act as an interface, handhold, and support businesses and investments." A key minerals cooperation is being discussed, as is establishing a talent and innovation partnership.
While the India-Canada economic connection has a history of "lost opportunities," Goyal and Ng are aiming to "script the future differently from the past" and "create the necessary eco-system and ingredients for a robust and resilient partnership."
"Two rules-based, transparent, democratic economies with strong complementarity are poised for rapid growth in the coming years," he said.
He stated that he had a "outstanding visit" in Canada and that he will return to New Delhi "very excited about the Canada-India partnership."