It has been almost 18 months since Jordan Reeves, Consul General of Canada arrived in India. And all this time, the Indian-Canadian bilateral talks have been in new high as well. In 2017 alone, four Canadian Ministers have visited India, Reeves believes this has lot of do with Canada’s increasing appreciation of India as an important trade partner. Before being appointed as Consul General in Mumbai, he served as senior trade commissioner in Saudi Arabia, with concurrent responsibility for Bahrain, Oman and Yemen. Prior to his role as senior trade commissioner, he was in Ottawa to work as a policy adviser to the assistant deputy minister for international business development and was selected to serve on a team supporting the department’s work on Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan, which was released in 2013. He has a long-standing relationship with Asia where he served for nine years with various countries like Taipei and China. Reeves spoke with FPJ’s Jescilia Karayamparambil and R N Bhaskar to list out his key areas of engagement and promotion in India.
What is the value of trade between India and Canada?
The present trade between both countries is in the range of USD 8 billion. This is very small but there is huge potential for both countries to see it increase substantially.
Which are the priority sectors for Canada in India?
n Agricultural products have a huge potential. For Canada, this is one area where the potential is large, both in terms of meeting India’s food security, as well as providing it the nutritional supplements that are usually in short supply.
In fact, our biggest agricultural exports to India are pulses which accounted for US$1.2 billion. Politically, food security bill is important to India. On the other hand, there is a great scope for Canada here in India due to food security bill. We can offer both technology and farm products. In fact, we could bring in our expertise on the entire food chain, which could increase incomes for farmers, and provide the country with more value-added inputs. It would also reduce the huge wastage of food in the country.
The new entrant in agri space is Canola oil and we are optimistic that the demand of this product will pick up in India. Agriculture is our priority sector followed by energy sector and innovation.
AGT’s work is also talked about. Comment
n There are lot of work done by AGT (This is one of the largest suppliers of value-added pulses, staple foods and food ingredients in the world. The company has been doing good business with India and also have an office based in Mumbai) to develop health properties. These developments will benefit India. There is a lot of opportunity in R&D and we are looking at exploring this enormous opportunity.
What kind of opportunities are you looking at exploring in education?
In education, there are a lot of opportunities available which includes Canadian Universities partnering with Indian Universities/ Colleges and making Canada more attractive to Indian students.
In 2015, Canadian Universities attracted 48,000 Indian students for courses with a duration of six months or longer. Last year, we saw an increase of 70 per cent. In 2017, we have witnessed a surge of more than 100 per cent applications compared to last year. But of course, we want numbers to go up for higher education as well.
Does getting a work permit make Canada attractive to students?
True. Once a student gets registered with an institute in Canada, he can work there for a limited period. And if he works in Canada for a specified period, he is eligible to get a permanent resident card, which allows him to find longer-term work contracts in our country. This is something few other countries offer. So, students in Canada can get educated here, and can even work here, provided they have done their education in Canada.
There are a lot of Indian students who are keen on taking advantage of Canada’s friendly policies. We are very keen on attracting more and more students to Canada for higher education.
Is it easy for Canada to connect with India due to huge Indian diaspora?
Three per cent of the total Canadian population comprises the Indian diaspora which includes first generation and second generation Indians. We are exploring the dynamics of Indian communities in Canada by representing the cultural side of the country in various platforms. Recently, we partnered with Ficci Frames where the diversity of Canada was showcased.
The country is known for its co-production and co-operation (its attractive policies for film-makers). Our film-making courses are popular as well.
Of course, since most Indians choose to live in around four Canadian cities, the population of Indians appears to be larger. But the Indian diaspora has also worked to make Canada more vibrant. Many of our elected representatives are from this diaspora. Some are even Cabinet ministers.
What is Canada’s priority at bilateral level?
We are looking at arriving at some conclusion with CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement). The reason for us to push for this is the tariff which is quite high. This has slowed down the advantages in the commodity space. It has been an impediment. Both CEPA and BIPA (Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement) are our priority. BIPA is crucially important because a great deal of foreign direct investment follows trade.
What are the other priorities?
Energy security is also our priority. There is also a great scope for infrastructure. Then, there is scope for partnership in the oil sector which is controlled by private companies in Canada compared to other countries where it is state-owned. There is a huge scope in India for the energy sector. Moreover, since 2015, we have been shipping uranium to India and this deal has been going on very smoothly for both countries.
Innovation is the third priority sector for Canada. The dynamics of start-up community makes this sector very attractive. We have had great success with start-ups in Canada and the market have saturated there for them. But in India, there is still a lot of space that can be explored. Some of these start-ups based in Canada can commercialise their entities in India.
The success of Canadian start-ups in the country was high due to the cluster approach adopted for various
sectors and setting up of funds for start-ups.
Infrastructure and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) are also other sectors that are in our radar. Meanwhile, defence is relatively a new sector but we are ready to tap any opportunity in this space as well.