Canada is the home to one of the largest Indian communities outside India. Canada and India also have thriving economic relations. To discuss the trade and commercial relations between the two countries, Anand Mishra, Editor and Rajesh Mehta, Consulting Editor, Governance Today, spoke to Mr Brian Parrott, Minister Commercial at the High Commission of Canada in New Delhi. Brian has extensive experience in international commerce, policy analysis related to economic development, trade promotion and investment attraction activities. Brian is responsible for advancing Canada’s commercial relationship with India, Nepal and Bhutan; and for providing leadership and guidance to the 13 trade and investment offices Canada has located across South Asia. He has developed and implemented CIDA programs for collaboration on environmental and regulatory reform in South America, and has undertaken international development work in Asia and South America. Edited excerpts:
How do you see the trade growth between India and Canada? What are the major roadblocks in this relationship?
Trade growth between Canada and India is really in the ascendency. In 2015, two way trade in goods between Canada and India increased by 28 per cent, from 2014 to a total of Cdn $8.26 Billion. Indian exports to Canada jumped 23 per cent to Cdn $3.94 billion while Canadian exports to India increased 33 per cent to Cdn $4.32 billion. India is now Canada’s 6th most important destination for exports overtaking Korea and Hong Kong last year. In fact, India has jumped from 12th to 6th in just two years. This is reflective of the increased focus on India by our government as well as the great story about India that your Prime Minister is telling the world. With a market the size of India and a huge and growing middle class, Canadian exporters are increasingly looking to India and we hope Indian companies are looking to Canada as a jumping off point for the rest of North America. Our relationship is in a good place right now. People to people ties are strong and with direct flights by Air Canada between Delhi and Toronto and soon Delhi to Vancouver the ease of travel will further enhance business linkages.
Which are the areas in which you see most potential moving forward?
The opportunities in India, as most observers agree, are enormous. Our strategy is to play to our strengths and find those opportunities where India has a need. Clearly agricultural products are important to help India assure food security. So we see this as a major strength and an area where we can increase trade. Canada is also a market for some of the products that India can produce. We are working hard on market access issues both ways in this regard. Canada is also strong in the smart city environment with several of our cities ranked in the top tiers of smart cities. So we are looking to export our technologies and expertise in this area. We also have ICT strengths that compliment India’s so this is another area. Canada has hundreds of thousands of miles of roads and railways so the infrastructure thrust that is so important to India is an area where we look for opportunities. Finally, Canada is rich in energy including renewable energy. For example, as a result of our strengths in Hydro and civil nuclear, almost 70 per cent of Canada’s electricity supply is non-emitting. We want to bring this kind of expertise to India too.
High tech and clean tech are among the most prominent industrial segments of Canada? How can India benefit from Canada in these areas?
As I noted, the smart city agenda in India is an area we are focusing on. The reason for this is that Canada has developed a great deal of expertise and experience in water treatment, waste to energy, and roof top solar energy. Canadian companies are very active in this space in India now and will continue to come as the Smart City program grows in India. We also have companies that excel in the ITC space in this regard. Smart grids and metering, for example employs a lot of IT and Ontario and BC are two provinces in Canada that are world leaders in the use of smart metering. I think there is a lot of ways that these areas of Canadian expertise can be brought to benefit India in the urban environment. Another area is in urban transit. Canadian companies like Bombardier, with a considerable presence already in India, are world leaders in clean urban transit. I should also mention that Canada has engaged in the Clean the Ganga initiative. We are using technologies and expertise on projects related to this.
Canada is the partner country in India Aviation 2016. How do you think this will help in improving aerospace business in India and Canada?
Canada was proud to have been a partner country in India Aviation in 2016. We took on this role because Canada has a very well developed aviation industry. From training ground crews to pilots, from building airport to aircraft, Canada has a lot of what India needs in this sector. One area in particular which we focussed on was the issue of regional connectivity. This is a key part of the new Aviation Policy in India and Canada has a great deal of expertise in this area because of our large country with a lot of remote areas, only accessible by air. We make aircraft like Twin Otters, helicopters, regional jets and Q400’s that are all very well suited to regional connections to smaller airports, remote parts of India and the like. Of course we also have a huge infrastructure of companies in Canada that supply to Boeing and Airbus so it was important to showcase Canada’s capabilities across the entire spectrum of the aviation industry, including skills training, airport architects and aircraft manufacturing.
What is your take on the Make in India and Digital India initiative of the government of India? What are your suggestions to make these more successful?
As a marketing initiative Make in India has been a great success. It has put a strong focus on India as a place to manufacture and as such has created the impetus for lots of state investor summits. This has helped bring global attention to India and make people think about investing here. Digital India is also an initiative that is raising awareness about using it to streamline and simplify both business processes and interaction between governments and its citizens. This is a good thing. Canada has a well-developed system of on-line services which has greatly increased access to government so we think this is a good initiative in India.
What is your take on Startup iniative of Modi Government? How can Indian Startup learn from Canadian Startups & vice versa?
I understand that India is now the country with the 2nd most start-ups in the world. This is not surprising knowing the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian people. The fact that there are programs to promote start-ups is great. Canada and most other countries put in place initiatives to promote start-ups. It’s an important way to create jobs for one thing and it also helps to push the economy in ways that we sometimes cannot imagine. Was anyone in the mainstream public talking about the internet of things 5 years ago, for example? We are looking at how we can bring Indian start-ups and Canadian start-ups together to find ways to collaborate and enhance some of these emerging technologies. We are convinced that in this global world if we can bring the Indian start-up eco-system together with the Canadian eco-system we both will benefit.
Canada is having its 150 years Celebrations next year. How are you encouraging Indian tourists & businesses to benefit from the program?
Yes, Canada will be 150 years old as a nation in 2017. Rather a young country in terms of India’s history, but nevertheless we are extremely proud of this coming Anniversary as Canada consistently gets rated as one of the best places to start a business and one of the best places in the world in which to live. Our countries share a passion for democracy and as federal, pluralist societies we actually have a lot in common. We will be looking to use this anniversary to further improve and build upon our positive relations. As I mentioned earlier, Air Canada has direct flights to Canada and the addition of the Vancouver route will virtually double the capacity for Indians to travel to Canada. Destination Canada, our national travel promotion agency, has a great program here in India encouraging more and more Indians to visit Canada and the numbers are all up. With interesting events and programs in Canada being planned for 2017, I am certain more Indians will want to visit to be able to say they were in Canada when it was 150 years young!
How are Canadian Universities encouraging Indian students to come to Canada for higher studies?
Canadian universities are already very active in India. Many have been in this market for several years and we are pleased at the number of Indian students attending our universities. They promote programs of interest to Indian students and some are offering programs here in India. This reduces time away from home but also helps to build a solid brand for Canadian Universities. We put on events and tour around India to talk to prospective students and their families about the benefits of studying in Canada, the great and cost effective education they will get at our universities and the safety that Canada accords young people. We are also increasingly bringing together Canadian and Indian technical colleges to ensure we can help India in on the Skilling India program.
Canada has the largest number of cities in the most liveable cities in the world list. How can India learn from this in the smart city program?
I think I addressed this question above, but I would just like to add that one of the best ways to understand what it means to be called a smart city is to visit one. We would encourage all of those that are engaged in this important endeavour in India to visit Canada and go to any of our major cities. You will find the elements of a Smart City laid out before you. Excellent urban transit systems, bike lanes, well planned neighbourhoods, smart metering and grids, a high level of internet connectivity and well-lit and clean streets.