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Monday, February 1, 2016

Ontario inks agreements as it pushes trade with India

Toronto Star

As Premier Wynne and key ministers swapped pleasantries with Indian officials Monday, officials on both sides conceded the potentially lucrative relationship has not received serious attention in recent years.

NEW DELHI, INDIA—Ontario is open for business.

That was the key message as the province formally launched one of the largest trade missions in its history here in India’s capital Monday.

But amid the usual sunny platitudes about the cozy relations between Ontario — home to 700,000 people of Indian descent — and this booming nation of almost 1.3 billion, provincial officials candidly admitted Queen’s Park had dropped the proverbial cricket ball in recent years.

“The last time Ontario had a delegation to India was 2009 — that’s almost seven years past. To me, this is unacceptable,” Ontario Immigration and International Trade Minister Michael Chan told about 200 Indians and Canadians gathered for the start of the mission.

“This is a good start . . . we need to restart the engine,” said Chan.

“We can and we must do better,” agreed Economic Development, Trade, and Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid, lamenting that two-way trade between the province and India is less than $2 billion a year.

“We’re not where we need to be,” added Duguid, who along with his ministerial counterparts will be meeting with representatives from Indian companies to encourage them to invest in Ontario while also helping Canadian firms expand operations here.

Premier Kathleen Wynne conceded that “we have to be a bit patient” to allow corporate and academic relations to flourish.

“This whole exercise is about connecting people. It’s about opening doors and helping them walk through them so they can find those partnerships,” said Wynne, as the first of dozens of memorandums of understanding were signed between Indian authorities and Ontario universities and colleges. In total, $98 million of agreements were inked.

“Some of the agreements that we’re signing today will have immediate impact, immediate job creation; some of the agreements we’re signing will have an impact down the road,” the premier said.

“You cannot underestimate the importance of being patient and understanding that there will be more to come from these relationships.”

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