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NEWS: Harper in India to seek a free trade deal

Harpers itinerary for this trip includes a visit to the Taj Mahal. The Globe and Mail says, Mr. Harper’s private tour of India’s most celebrated monument is a rare privilege – on a normal day, he would share the experience with 7,000 tourists.

Harper’s itinerary for this trip includes a visit to the Taj Mahal. The Globe and Mail says, “Mr. Harper’s private tour of India’s most celebrated monument is a rare privilege – on a normal day, he would share the experience with 7,000 tourists.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper begins a six-day visit to India this weekend to secure a free trade deal, a foreign investor protection agreement, and a nuclear co-operation accord.

The Globe and Mail reports, “It was just 18 months ago that he promised voters in the Conservative Party’s 2011 campaign platform that he would aim for a Canada-India free-trade deal by 2013…” He repeated that pledge at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this past January. “Today, however, Canadian officials privately call that an ‘ambitious target’, a diplomatic way of saying it’s a long shot.”

It appears that one of the main issues stalling a free trade deal is, “India is facing domestic calls to rethink investor protection deals that grant foreign companies standing to sue for compensation after a series of controversial cases there…”

In late-September, it was also reported, “A number of Indian companies are in ‘discussions’ to acquire or invest in Alberta’s energy companies. Private and state-owned companies are exploring potential purchases of the Alberta oil-sands properties owned by ConocoPhillips Co. …The energy industry is (also) escalating efforts to send oil tankers to India and China by way of the east coast. It is shorter to reach India’s west coast refining hub via Canada’s east coast than it is to ship oil off the west coast, Laurie Smith, partner at Bennett Jones LLP, said in an interview.”

The newspaper also comments, “The trip is as much about domestic politics as international trade. Indo-Canadian voters in the Greater Toronto Area helped the Conservatives win their first parliamentary majority in the 2011 election.”

“A sixth round of (Canada-India free) trade negotiations that takes place later this month in Ottawa.”

Council of Canadians blogs on the Canada-India free trade talks can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17083, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16851, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=14230 and http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13293.