To the New Canadian Government

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Some Food for Thought On India Trade

By Kam Rathee *

[Editor's Note: This article was written before the poll results came out.]

As Canada heads to the polls, one’s mind turns to who the winner will be and what their plans may be in the context of Canada-India business relations.

There is no denying the fact that Liberal governments of the past, and the current Conservative dispensation, have had their heart in the right place when it came to promotion of Canada-India trade, investment and services.

There is, therefore, no doubt that if the Liberals come to power or the Conservatives get re-elected, there will not be a radical change in their business stance towards India. In other words, we are starting on a level playing field and need not fear the rocking of the Canada-India business boat.

Taking this as a fait accompli, what can we expect from the new government or rather what can we suggest that has not been suggested earlier?

Sometimes you have to say things again and again even if you sound repetitious because repetition may help drive home a point that has fallen on deaf ears in the past.

I had earlier made three suggestions to help push the envelope further in Canada-India business relations. Sounding a note of caution that those who ignore or do not learn from the lessons of history are bound to repeat them, here at these three recommendations that are worthy of repetition:

1: Strengthen the Trade Commissioner Services (TCS), as it is the key relationship ingredient in promoting trade, investment and services in the Canada-India business corridor. They are not only a lifeline, but also `ambassadors’ of Canada and most often the first and last line of contact between peoples and businesses that ply this corridor. These hard working professionals and experts are directly responsible for any uptick in trade figures between the two countries.

In any business, they would be duly compensated, say, by commission payments and other forms of recognition. After all, they are the revenue earners for the government of Canada. I am not suggesting for a minute that they be converted into commission earning salesmen, but rather be recognized and appreciated, financially and otherwise, as esteemed business “ envoys” of Canada. Remember that time tested saying that a chain is only as strong as the links in the chain.

2: Support the teachers! If you support the teacher, he will support the students. A good teacher produces good students. Support those who support and promote Canada’s trade. The non-profit organizations and associations in Canada (say the teachers) comprise of members ( say students) who do or wish to do business in the Canada-India business arena. These entities subsist on membership dues and survive on shoe-string budgets. They need financial and logistical support so that they can assist their members, and without looking over their shoulders, provide them the business leadership they deserve.

3: Provide financial, fiscal and tax support to the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are really the backbone of Canada. Doing business overseas is not everyone’s game. It needs a strong mind and guts to tackle the difficult terrain that is a common landscape in the developing world. Doing business there can be psychologically and financially draining. One business trip to India costs around $ 10,000.00 and one has to undertake half a dozen trips (down by $ 60,000) to find out which end is up. Which SME in Canada can afford this gamble of this good money chasing bad ? It is fully understood, that one cannot expect the Government of dole out money to one and all with no clear expectation of a return. What can be done is support through our tax system that encourages boldness , risk taking and spirit of enterprise that takes one to seek opportunities in foreign lands. One perhaps hears a heartbreaking alas, where is CIDA when we needed it !

It is human nature to seek easy solutions to difficult problems. In my humble opinion, the above points do not fall is the same category. However, sometimes the obvious may be missed . These three suggestions are not rocket science, nor a financial back-breaker. They are down to earth and make just plain common sense. If implemented, these will certainly not drain our treasury!

* Kam Rathee is Vice-Chairman of the Canada-India Business Council. He is a Special Adviser on India at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP (Blakes).

JULY 2018

Vol. 12 - No. 12


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