Canadian PM lights Diwali lamp, eyes more trade with IndiaBy Gurmukh Singh, IANS
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
TORONTO - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday night that the proposed free trade agreement with India will usher in a new era of economic ties between the two countries.
Speaking after lighting a lamp at the annual Diwali function at the Canadian parliament, Harper said as they celebrate the festival of lights in the august House the two countries have begun their talks in New Delhi Tuesday for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to boost their bilateral trade.
Referring to his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the G20 summit in Seoul last week, Harper praised his Indian counterpart for setting the ball rolling for the proposed free trade agreement as the two countries aim to triple their trade in the next few years.
The two-way trade between India and Canada currently hovers around $4.5 billion, compared to a whopping $29 billion between Canada and China.
Canadian Trade Minister Peter Van Loan, who is currently in India, has started talks with his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma to ink the proposed CEPA. Harper acknowledged the role played by parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai, who is the highest ranking Indo-Canadian in his cabinet, in mooting the idea of a free trade agreement in 2005.
Praising the accomplishments of the million-strong Indian diaspora in Canada, the prime minister said the community is the driving force behind the deepening ties between the two countries.
More than 500 people, including Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Parliamentary Secretary Deepak Obhrai, Indo-Canadian senator Vim Kochhar, and Indian-origin MPs Ruby Dhalla and Devinder Shory attended the Diwali gala.
Following a five-minute puja and a brief entertainment programme, the participants were treated to a dinner featuring treats from Indian cuisine.
“It is the 10th time that the festival lights has been celebrated in the Canadian parliament,” said Obhrai, who started the celebrations 10 years ago.
(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)