Midweek Exclusive- Minister Bains: Trudeau to visit India soon so went to lay track
Trade with India increased 30% over last year
By Shazia Malik
Brampton – Trade with India stands at $8.1 billion but improved more and there was a 30% increase in the previous year so it is at the growth trajectory. India is a very important market for Canada as it is growing at the rate of 7.5%. So my main focus was mainly on enhancing business ties, concentrate on the academic level but more importantly bring betterment in the lives of people there.
This was said by Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development during an exclusive sitting with Midweek. He said: “I met Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and we talked about free trade and foreign investment protection agreement so a lot of positive movement in those areas. We signed one MoU with the chief minister of Karnatka that is looking at infrastructure as you know we in Canada are spending $180 billion on infrastructure. The second one was with the Raman Research Institute (RRI) in Bangalore as they are working very closely with the Waterloo University in the field of quantum computing research. There was also an academic MoU.”
Minister Bains said Canada and India connect at many levels, have a long history and a bright future together. “My focus during this trip was to look at the government, business and academic level. Also Prime Minister Trudeau will be visiting India soon so my work was to do some homework and lay the track for upcoming his visit. We also wish to strengthen relations at government to government level and seek business opportunities for Canadian companies in India and Indian companies to do business in Canada. And it is exciting at the innovation level.”
Bains added before Trudeau’s visit, he immigration minister John McCallum wanted to build the momentum. He added: “We are diversifying our economy and though US is our number one partner, friend and ally, we want stronger relations with China and India. We have just signed free trade deal with the Europe, we want our companies to access to the world, and India is a very important part of that equation.”
Bains informed a strong vibrant Indian community of over a million people plus live in Canada so “I timed my visit with the Immigration Minister and we met the High Commission’s staff in Delhi. The main focus of Mr McCallum was reducing processing time and look into family reunifications. He also went to Chandigarh and he is panning and working on a proposal on how to better immigration services, better outcomes, shorter wait times, and better customer service. We are also investing in it. However, my meeting with the team there was more at the economic level.”
Bains said there is a lot of movement in the area of international students and the Liberal government is making a lot of efforts to attract them. “To put things in perspective, over a 100,000 students in Canada are only from India with a lot of potential to grow. Our main competition is from UK and Australia, and even USA but I was tracing with those with Commonwealth history, who have Westminster-style parliamentary systems, so our focus is on attracting international students here. While in Delhi I visited the Indian Institute of Technology. We had discussions with students and they asked very interesting questions and when we answered they looked at us very favourably. So we are trying to identify students from good schools particularly in science, technology, engineers, mathematics (STEM), that are important for our innovation agenda as digital technology science, maths, engineers is good for our economy.
He also visited the Bombay stock exchange where Ryerson university has opened its start-up programme where Bains said he is not only trying “to recruit students but small companies to come here and do business in Canada, and smaller Canadian companies to go to India and do business there. So we have bullish relationship with India and there are opportunities at the economic and student front. I also met some of my colleagues from Ryerson who are doing very well there.”
Talking about smart cities, Bains stated: “India’s smart city initiative is very consistent with Canada’s innovation agenda and the different application processes for smart cities that the central government is funding. So a number of clearing companies are helping them in development. Now they are digitally connected as there is Digital India as well. What we can do is that we are doing cluster strategy, which is not really a smart city but much more elaborate than that with multiple cities and multiple jurisdictions.” The idea was how to create a magnet for jobs, magnet for companies, grow the best businesses, to grow the best institutes. Like we have here university, business and government that works together, and so this model can be shared with their smart cities. Bains said the Indian government was very open to international collaborations. Like Wipro or Tata Consultancy or Tata Group of companies, were very much interested and ready to connect with the smart city initiative from India to Canada’s super cluster strategy.
Talking about research, the minister said it is a broad term but as far as the practical solutions are concerned, he had a lot of discussion Dr. Harsh Vardhan, minister of Science and Technology and Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Communications and Information Technology about social innovation. Bains added: “The day I reached Delhi there was news that air quality had worsened to that high a level in 17 and there was a lot of pollution. So we said what kind of technology we can give from Canada for clean air, clean water, for better food security, as food also is a problem, where it comes from, what is its quality, no one know. Though research is being carried out in India for clean food, clean security, but it is here that Canada has leadership.”
The minister said however, one should not look at business alone though Canada wishes to have trade deals and make money but social aspects on how to improve the life of common people, people to people contact are also equally important. He said: “There is a lot of promise there and when we said we can create jobs and help them, it touched Indians and businesses in a very special way and that is where Canada built that very special relationship.”
He went to Bombay and saw the extremely rich and poor as well, so he said they had to see how to tackle the socio-economic challenges there and how could Canada play a leadership role in it – to give solutions in those areas to improve the quality of life of people, so the two sides also talked about the social innovation. Overall Bains said the trip was very positive. A Mississauga-based small company SOTI was also there and they signed three MoUs in India. Bains said: “I’m proud to represent Mississauga-Malton and to help a local company do well in India, it is very exciting and a point of pride for me.”