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Speech by Secretary (Economic Relations) during the Annual National Convention of the India-Canada Business Chamber, New Delhi (November 13, 2017)

November 13, 2017

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to attend today’s Annual Convention of the India-Canada Business Chamber. This gathering is a useful platform for our entrepreneurs to come together to exchange views and share experiences on the current state of bilateral economic engagement.

Ever since its inception in 1994, ICBC has contributed immensely to the development of trade and economic cooperation between India and Canada.

The theme for this year’s Annual Convention – Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Digitization – is timely and appropriate.

Both India and Canada are known for innovation and entrepreneurship.

We are delighted that Canada is a partner country for this year’s Technology Summit.

The importance attached by Canada to this event is reflected in the fact that three Canadian Ministers are visiting India in this connection.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The overarching objective of a forum such as this should be to achieve the common goal of reaching the full potential of our economic engagement.

For this we need the sustained and whole-hearted attention from the governments, our states and provinces, chambers of commerce and individual businessmen.

On the political side, the elevation of the relationship to strategic partnership in April 2015 is a defining moment. As Prime Minister mentioned during his visit, "Canada is a key partner in every area of India’s national development priority”.

We need to make a fresh beginning on trade which is currently quite modest (around USD 6 billion with USD 2 billion in favour of Canada).

On the investment side, while it is always very difficult to put exact figures, the broad assessment is that Indian companies have made more direct investments in Canada than the Canadian companies in India (Official figures - Indian investment about USD 2 billion while the Canadian FDI is less than USD 1 billion).

At present, it is clear that our economies have complementarities in sectors such as energy, natural resources, agriculture, education and skill development.

India has remained the fastest growing large economy in the world for the last three years.

The macro-economic fundamentals of the Indian economy are strong and are characterised by low inflation, low current account deficits, high forex reserves and commitment to fiscal prudence.

The Government has unleashed unprecedented reforms in various spheres.

GST has been the biggest reform measure in decades-vast in scope and unparalleled in scale.

This has also been preceded by a dedicated campaign against corruption as exemplified by demonetisation and battle against black money.

We have brought in and continue to bring in reforms to simplify laws and regulations to make them easy, efficient, convenient and transparent.

The results are there for all to see.

India is now among the top hundred countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings. In a short time of three years, we have jumped forty-two ranks.

In particular, with an improvement of 30 ranks compared to last year’s report, ours is the highest jump by any country till date. India is also the only country in South Asia and the BRICS nations to feature among the most improved economies of the this year.

Reforms in Foreign Direct Investment have eased the FDI Caps in key areas like railways, defence, insurance and real estate.

In addition, India has also have moved up thirty two places in the last two years in the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum; twenty one places on the Global Innovation Index of WIPO in two years; nineteen places on the Logistics Performance Index of 2016 of World Bank.

Today, India is also among the top FDI destinations listed by UNCTAD.

Underpinning these developments is Prime Minister’s mantra of "Reform, Perform, Transform.”

In this scenario, how does one look at the future of India-Canada economic relations?

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My country’s economic growth and developmental goals offer enormous opportunities for building investment and commercial partnerships with Canada.

I see potential for cooperation in infrastructure, clean technology, agri-food etc.

There are opportunities for companies specializing in smart solutions for public service delivery, smart and energy efficient construction; and treatment of water and urban waste.

Under our Mission on Smart Cities, we plan to build 100 Smart Cities and seek collaboration with Canadian Companies in this endeavour.

Government of India has up scaled the target for overall renewable energy capacity by more than 5 times to 175 GW by the year 2022 which includes 100 GW from Solar, 60 GW from Wind, 10 GW from Bio-energy and 5 GW from Small hydro-Power.

Canada generates a significant majority of its electricity from hydroelectric dams (59% in 2006). Wind power is growing quickly with Canada in being the 6th largest producer of wind power in the world. Canada has plentiful solar energy resources too, which offer greater collaboration between both countries in the renewable energy sphere.

In the conventional energy sector, we have made a good beginning through commencement of supply of uranium. There is huge potential both in the area of oil and gas too.

Skill development is a key priority area for our government. 65% of India’s population is below the age of 35. We are looking at international partnerships with countries like Canada that have acknowledged competencies in skill development.

India also offers exciting opportunities for investment. The issuance of masala bonds by British Columbia government can be a trigger for stepped up investments by Canadian in the Indian economy.

People-to-people contacts have been an important component of our relationship. I am happy to note that there has been a huge jump in the number of Indian students going to Canada for studies. This year, the number of Indian students in Canada is expected to double and touch the figure of 100,000.

There has been also significant improvement in air connectivity thanks to direct flights being run by Air Canada between our cities. I hope this acts as a great enabler for furthering business cooperation between both countries.

I would once again encourage Canadian businesses and investors to be partners in India’s development.

I thank you all for your patience.


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