Toronto: Ontario’s Trade Minister is scheduled to begin a mission to India on Monday with the objective of attracting Indian tech businesses to the Canadian province. Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Victor Fedeli’s week-long visit will also be the first by a prominent Canadian leader to India since bilateral tensions erupted in September over the killing of pro-Khalistan figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in Surrey, British Columbia.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times prior to the visit at his office in downtown Toronto’s business district, Bay Street, Fedeli said, “This trip will be very tech heavy. We’ll meet with a lot of tech companies and I think the importance is to share with them the great opportunities that they have by looking at a facility in Ontario to augment their head office capabilities in India. That this won’t cannibalise the work that they’re doing there or their market share in their region, this is a way for them to enter the North American market.”
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He described the trip, which will take him to Mumbai and Bengaluru as a “roll-up-your-sleeves sales mission”.
He said preparatory interactions with Indian companies have been positive without the overhang of the nosedive in bilateral relations between the Federal governments. “Part of it (the visit) is a signal to India that Ontario is open for business. And, the real message that we’ll deliver is the value proposition of coming to Ontario hasn’t changed in the last year. There’s still those solid business reasons why they should be here,” he said.
Fedeli was expected to travel to India in November last year for a trade mission but was caught in the bilateral freeze. His visa had expired in September and he was unable to get another in time as India had suspended issuance of visas to Canadians after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons that there were “credible allegations” of a potential link between Indian agents and Nijjar’s murder.
“We just opted to come in February instead and look forward to our trip back again in November,” Fedeli said, adding, “We just thought, we’ve always got this great value proposition. It’s not going anywhere.”
That value proposition includes access to 51 countries with which Canada has tariff-free agreements if Indian businesses chose to co-locate to Ontario, as well as the province’s ecosystem in the tech and life sciences sectors with advanced manufacturing capabilities and talent in the burgeoning fields of artificial intelligence and robotics.
“Again, we think that this is a perfect opportunity to send the signal to India and to the businesses that we are open for business and the fundamentals haven’t changed. So, let’s roll up the sleeves and do business together,” he stressed, asked whether he was prepared for criticism over the visit.
He was also prepared for this “sales mission”, handing out a visiting card printed in Hindi. “The tech (sector) is the low hanging fruit. They want to be here. We want them here. We’ve got a great opportunity for them. So, we’ll focus on that. We’ll fish where the fish are.”