Toronto, Feb 20 (Canadian-Media): Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, during his recent visit to India, announced Tuesday in front of an audience at the Canada-India Business Forum in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai, India that Canadian and Indian companies have signed 66 new contracts worth $1 billion in total, expected to create 5,800 jobs in Canada, media reports said.
In investment by Indian companies reportedly close to $250 million in Canada, which will pick up the remaining $750-million tab,
"We have several plans in Canada for three businesses, which is fibre, carbon black and rolled aluminum products," said Birla "We are very happy investors. I think just the ease of doing business, the business friendliness of the Canadian government across the country I think is something that is a true delight for an investor. Someone whose tasted that will always want to come back for more," Kumar Mangalam Birla, the industrialist was reported to state and added that provincial governments had also been co-operative.
Canadian trade with India can best be described as underperforming. The Harper government in 2012 set itself an objective of increasing two-way commerce to $15 billion by 2015.
"That figure was optimistic, and they haven't reached it," said Rohinton Medhora, who heads the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont. Trade between the two countries is still stuck at just over $8 million annually.
"Trade is something that responds to economic incentives, and the fact is, for a long time India was a relatively closed economy," said Medhora.
India's protectionist instincts are still alive, as seen recently when it slapped tariffs in the 40 to 50 per cent range on Canadian dried peas and chickpeas. (Pulses are Canada's single most important export to India, generating over a billion dollars in sales for prairie farmers.)
Getting those tariffs lifted or reduced has been one of the missions of Trudeau's visit.
"I brought this issue up at the highest level with Prime Minister Modi a few weeks ago," he said Monday evening.
"I will bring it up with him again on Friday. I will continue to talk about pulses and agricultural exports from Canada to India at every chance I get."
Talks on a foreign investment protection agreement and a comprehensive economic and trade agreement have also stalled.
That's partly because India insists on working on both deals at the same time, while Canada would prefer to move ahead now with the foreign investment pact and worry about the free trade deal later.
India motors aheadIndia's inefficient state sector and bureaucracy were also a factor in holding its own potential back. For years it lagged behind China in annual growth, but in recent years, as China's economic motor has slowed, India's has accelerated, and is expected to post growth in the seven per cent range this year.
That produces both new demand for goods and services from other countries, and more money with which to buy them.
"India seeks energy security; Canada can provide it," says Medhora, who is in Mumbai for the business forum. "Trade is very much an area where the two countries have not reached the potential that they should.
"Ultimately, these two countries and their businesses don't know each other, and that has to change for trade to grow. Free trade deals are nice to have, but they're not necessary or sufficient conditions for trade to grow."
Indian immigration to Canada, the second source country for new immigrants, is building greater awareness of Canada on the subcontinent. That in turn opens the door to the creation of cultural and educational links that the government of Canada is trying to foster on this trip.
And that explains why Trudeau is meeting three of India's biggest movie stars — Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan — on the same day he's entertaining CEOs.
In 2011, Bollywood was lured by the governments of Canada and Ontario to hold its version of the Oscars in Toronto. Already, Bollywood producers — like their Hollywood counterparts before them — were discovering the attractions of Canada as a place to make movies.
Since then, a number of Bollywood blockbusters have been filmed in Canada — a trend the Trudeau government wants to foster.
Student numbers explodingThe benefits of Bollywood are twofold. Most obviously, some of the movies' revenues will remain in Canada, where the spinoffs benefit everyone from cameramen to caterers.
Less obviously, when Indian audiences watch those movies, they help to sell Canada as a brand and a place to be.
The growing awareness of Canada in the Indian mind has produced an explosion of interest in Canadian universities and colleges.
Shah Rukh Khan is mobbed by fans as he arrives for the premiere of his film Ra.One in Toronto on Oct. 26, 2011, the year Bollywood was lured by the governments of Canada and Ontario to hold its version of the Oscars in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
That trend accelerated sharply following the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. that has been followed by an unprecedented six per cent decline in international visitors to the U.S., even as international travel continues to grow in almost every other market.
The Canadian Consulate in India reported a doubling in the number of student visas issued to Indian citizens between 2016 and 2017.
The demand is to strong that even after hiring more staff, the consulate has had to cycle other staffers in and out of India from other posts on six- to eight-week shifts.
Today, 124,000 Indian students are paying to attend classes in Canada. Tourism is up as well.
Those students may return to India with Canada at front of mind as a land in which to do business and source products, and with contacts in the country to help make that happen.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)