Canada Postpones Trade Mission to India With Tensions On Rise

(Bloomberg) -- Canada is postponing a trade mission to India that was planned for early October, a move that comes as broader trade talks between the two countries have stalled.

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It also follows a contentious meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the recent Group of Twenty summit in New Delhi.

Modi’s office publicly criticized Trudeau after the meeting for allegedly tolerating “anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada,” while Trudeau said he raised concerns over foreign interference in Canadian politics.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng gave no explanation for calling off the trade mission, and did not give a future date for sending one. The trip had been planned to go to Mumbai beginning Oct. 9, and focus on sectors including automobiles, agriculture and information technology.

“At this time, we are postponing the upcoming trade mission to India,” said Alice Hansen, Ng’s spokesperson. “In the next year we will be taking businesses to Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam.”

Canada and India had also been holding formal talks toward signing an early progress trade agreement, but shortly before Trudeau’s trip to India it was revealed those talks have been paused.

Ng told reporters this week that the two sides are taking time to “reflect” on the negotiations, in part to consult with more stakeholders. “It’s a normal part of these conversations,” she said.

India’s Trade Minister Piyush Goyal said in an interview with Indian media outlet Firstpost that the pause was needed to make sure that “geopolitically and economically” the countries are on the same page.

“We have had certain issues which are of serious concern,” he said, adding that Modi highlighted these issues with Trudeau at the G-20 summit. “We are hoping for resolution of some of these issues before we take it forward.”

India is concerned about Sikh Canadians who advocate for an independent homeland known as Khalistan. Trudeau has said his country condemns any violence or hatred, but it must also defend freedom of expression and peaceful protest.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy, published last year, put a strong emphasis on diversifying trade in the region away from China.

“India’s growing strategic, economic and demographic importance in the Indo-Pacific makes it a critical partner in Canada’s pursuit of its objectives under this strategy,” the document said.

--With assistance from Laura Dhillon Kane.

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