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'I won't say any more:' Trudeau mum on paused trade talks with India


Ottawa is refusing to say why trade talks with India were paused shortly before the G20 summit in New Delhi. 

India's envoy to Canada recently revealed that Ottawa asked for a pause "within the last month." The envoy did not elaborate on why and neither will the international trade minister or prime minister.

Speaking from Singapore on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked twice to give a reason, but he would not provide any details.

"We know the negotiations around free trade are long and complex and I won't say any more," Trudeau said. 

Trudeau's comments come just days after Trade Minister Mary Ng said Canada is currently "taking stock" of where things are. 

“Trade agreements are complex and there are many things that go into that,” Ng told reporters in Indonesia on Tuesday. “All we are doing at this point is taking a reflection to take stock of where we are.”

Canada and India first launched talks for a comprehensive trade deal in 2010, but those plans were abandoned in 2017. Since 2022, the two countries have instead been engaged in talks about a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that would be restricted to certain industries.

While in Indonesia for meetings related to the ASEAN summit, Goldy Hyder, the CEO of the Canada Business Council, said he believes the pause is a chance for the government to ask questions about the content of a potential agreement.

He described it as a chance to look at the areas where consensus can be found and where Canada is likely “overreaching.” But, he said, it’s important Canada get back to the table, whatever the reason for the stall.

While in the Indo-Pacific region, Trudeau provided updates on trade negotiations with the ASEAN trading block, saying a deal will hopefully be signed before the end of 2025. The prime minister hopes a separate deal with Indonesia will be complete by the end of 2024, roughly three years after talks launched.

If signed, the two free trade deals would open Canada's industries to a market of more than 660 million people. 

"Everyone around the world, after having focused so much on maximum efficiency of supply chains, learnt during the pandemic that we need resiliency of our supply chains, we need diversity within our supply chains," Trudeau said. "That has put even more emphasis for Canada in engaging with Southeast Asia, but also for Southeast Asian economies to look to countries like Canada. 

Wayne Farmer, president of the Canada-ASEAN Business Council, said promoting Canadian businesses and products requires continued face-time with Indo-Pacific leaders.

"A large part of promoting Canada's interest out here is the touch that's required between senior government and senior private sector leaders," he said Thursday.


Trudeau will arrive in India on Friday without an official bilateral with host Indian Prime Minister Nardendra Modi on the schedule. 

Both Australia and the United States have announced meetings with Modi, while British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is meeting with the leader before the start of the G20. At that meeting, Sunak will reportedly talk about a U.K.-India Free Trade Agreement that Indian officials have said they hope will be completed before the end of the year. 

Asked about Canada-India relations and whether a meeting with Modi will happen, Trudeau said events are still being worked out.

"You can know that we will have really important conversations when we're there," Trudeau said. 

With files from the Canadian Press




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