ontario news watch

‘Doesn’t make sense’: Business leaders say halted trade talks harm India and Canada

MONTREAL — Business leaders continue to grapple with the economic uncertainty fostered by the rift between the Canadian and Indian governments, saying the suspension of free trade talks hurts both sides.

The heads of several commercial groups say the souring relationship marks a major hurdle to boosting bilateral trade beyond last year’s $20.9 billion in goods and services and deters Indian students from studying in Canada.

Relations between the two countries eroded after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament on Sept. 18 that New Delhi may have been involved in the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh independence activist.

In response, the Indian government suspended visa services for Canadian citizens — partially restored last month — and revoked diplomatic immunity from Canadian diplomats, prompting two-thirds of them to leave the country.

Canada India Foundation chairman Satish Thakkar says cancelling the trade talks — Canada halted them on Sept. 1 — “doesn’t make sense” given the potential loss to both parties, and believes the higher tensions mark the lowest point in Canada-India relations since the 1970s.

Victor Thomas, who heads the Canada-India Business Council, says the resulting uncertainty has derailed some Indian students who were mulling post-secondary education in Canada, a talent pool that makes up the largest slice of the country’s international student body at 40 per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2023.

The Canadian Press