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Peterson leads trade mission to India
Sharda Vaidyanath
4/11/2005

Mumbai rolled out a red carpet welcome last week to more than sixty representatives from Canadian companies participating in a Team Canada trade mission to India. International Trade Minister Jim Peterson, who is leading the team, said in a press release that the mission will focus on agriculture, financial services, energy, information and communications technology, and transportation infrastructures, and that it will strengthen Canada’s economic ties with India.

At one time the largest recipient of Canadian aid, India is now the world’s twelfth-largest economy, and the fourth-largest in terms of purchasing power. Yet, it ranks only eighteenth among Canadian export markets, even with sales reaching $764.4 million in 2003, up 13.4% from the previous year.

Despite India’s dramatic economic liberalization since 1991, Canadian business relations with India branched off from traditional areas only in 2001. Visits by Prime Ministers Chrétien and Martin identified science and technology as important sectors for networking in the current trade mission.

“There has been a time lag in realizing India’s potential,” said Shyamala B. Cowsik, Indian High Commissioner to Canada, in an interview last week. She adds that bilateral trade with India is uneven, with current Canadian investments in India amounting to $62 million while India’s investment in Canada is $183 million. Cowsik says plastics, software, telecommunications, and generic drugs are examples of Indian industries that are thriving because of low production costs, cheap labor, and a large consumer base.

“And Canada should get in there before some other country gets in.”

Cowsik’s optimism about doing business in India is shared by respected Western financial publications that cite a stable democracy, a rapidly expanding middle class, a 7% annual growth rate, and- at 472 million- the world’s largest skilled, literate, and English-speaking workforce.

Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge, speaking in Toronto last month, said India and China were major global competitors in labor- and skill-intensive industries. “Asia’s highly efficient production capacity is prompting a transformation of manufacturing and distribution processes around the world.” There is tremendous competitive pressure in sectors that are traditional mainstays of the Canadian economy, such as automobiles and parts, steel, and other manufacturing industries.

Winnipeg-based Cubex Ltd. is among the companies participating in the current trade mission. “We anticipate great success,” says CEO Hemant M. Shah.

Peterson will travel to Chennai to launch a new Canadian consulate focusing on Canadian trade and investments in southern India. He is also scheduled to deliver a speech in New Delhi on trade and investment relations between Canada and India. Team Canada will return on the weekend.

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