Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government requested a “pause” on trade talks with India in the last month, as the Canadian leader prepares to travel to New Delhi for the Group of 20 leaders’ summit.
India’s High Commissioner to Canada confirmed that Trudeau’s team initiated the pause, which was first reported Friday by the Canadian Press.
“The Canadian side has suggested a ‘pause’ to the ongoing fast-paced negotiations on an early-progress trade agreement with India,” Sanjay Kumar Verma said in an emailed statement. “Though I am not aware of exact reason(s), most likely, the ‘pause’ will allow more consultations with the stakeholders.”
Trade negotiations are long, complex processes and Canada has paused to take stock of the situation, a government official told reporters on a briefing about Trudeau’s upcoming trip to India. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, didn’t provide more details.
Narendra Modi and Justin Trudeau at the 2022 Group of Seven summit in Germany.
Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
In May, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal visited Ottawa and both sides appeared optimistic. Ng said they were getting closer to signing the early-progress agreement, an initial deal that would focus on a few industries rather than an economy-wide accord.
“It is not going to be years,” she said at the time.
Canada has had intermittent trade negotiations with India stretching back a decade, but in recent years Trudeau’s government has ramped up its efforts to diversify its economy away from China. A trade deal with India is part of that broader Indo-Pacific strategy.
Trudeau’s country is home to a vast Indian community, including the largest Sikh population outside of India, and there have been calls for his government to make a trade deal contingent on India respecting the human rights of religious minorities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is chairing the G-20 this year and several of Trudeau’s ministers have already gathered with their counterparts in India throughout the summer.
Trudeau is set to travel to New Delhi for the leaders’ summit next weekend, though it’s not yet clear whether he will meet one-on-one with PM Modi.
Asked whether Trudeau would raise human-rights issues with PM Modi, the government official said the Canadian leader raises such concerns with every partner he has in the world.