New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS) India and Canada are likely to sign a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) by the end of this year that could raise bilateral trade to $15 billion in two years and substantially boost two-way investments.
"We are hopeful that the agreement will be signed by the end of this year. It will give a big boost to bilateral trade and investment," Naval Bajaj, president of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, told IANS.
Bajaj, who was here leading the largest ever trade delegation of Canada's small and medium firms as part of the India Trade Mission, said the two countries have made a lot of progress on the proposed CEPA negotiations.
"We are hoping that the tariffs would come down substantially once the agreement is signed. It will help increase bilateral trade to $15 billion in a few years from now," Bajaj said.
Bilateral merchandise trade between India and Canada increased 23.4 percent to 5.2 billion Canadian dollars in 2011, according to the latest figures available with Statistics Canada. The trade is fairly balanced. India's export to Canada was $2.5 billion, while import was $2.6 billion in 2011.
During his visit to Canada in June 2010, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had set a target to increase bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2015.
Bajaj said the bilateral trade would reach $15 billion in two years if the CEPA was signed.
India and Canada launched the CEPA negotiations in November 2010. According to a joint working group report, the CEPA deal would boost Indian gross domestic product by $6 billion, while the benefit to the Canadian economy would be around $15 billion.
Canadian High Commissioner Stewart Beck said the seventh round of negotiations for the proposed deal would be held in New Delhi next month. Beck said both sides have the "will" to conclude a comprehensive deal as early as possible.
Bajaj, who became president of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce last year, said the chamber had been pushing for early conclusion of the deal. "We are collecting feedback from the businesses of both the countries and will request the negotiators to address the issues affecting the business community" he said.
A nearly 100-member business delegation led by Bajaj visited major Indian cities including Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi, Ahmedabad and Amritsar from Jan 2 to 16.
"We have had fruitful visits. So many business-to-business meetings were held. I hope many of them will result in joint ventures and partnership agreements," Bajaj said.
He however declined to specify the companies that are likely to enter into the deals.
Nearly a million people of Indian origin and non-resident Indians live in Canada, almost half of them are Sikhs and 40 percent Hindus.
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)