"Canada and India did $8.3 billion in merchandise trade in 2017, per Statistics Canada data—the equivalent of a work week across the U.S.-Canada border. That number fails to capture some Canadian exports, which flow through other countries before reaching India. The Canadian government has expanded its trade commissioner service in India in recent years, and the two sides have been negotiating a free trade agreement since 2010, and an investment protection treaty since 2004, though neither will be signed during this visit.
But it is clear that “this bilateral relationship has underperformed,” says Vivek Dehejia, an Associate Professor of Economics at Carleton University and fellow at Mumbai-based think-tank the IDFC Institute. “It’s simply not achieved its potential given the size of the diaspora.”
Growing the bilateral relationship is made more complicated by India’s current global popularity. Modi rode to power on a wave of economic aspiration, and governments around the world are keen to participate in the market opportunities that promises. Dehejia says the country’s diplomats are “focused on the big fish” like the U.S., China and Russia, as well as regional rival Pakistan. Canada is a minnow by contrast.
That makes growing the bilateral relationship harder, and it is not clear in any case that the two government’s interests are currently aligned. Dehejia recalls a more natural affinity between Modi and Harper. “They see themselves as outsiders who have sort of stormed the bastion,” he says, noting that Harper was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Modi on his electoral victory in 2014. The Conservatives were more commercially-driven, whereas Trudeau’s interest might lie closer to home. “The Liberal government is very mindful of its diaspora constituency,” Dehejia says. “They were an important voting block that got these guys into power.” He expects to see some “minor deals” struck to show that the meetings were productive."
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