The proposed India-Canada Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA), which will be a transitional step towards a full-fledged comprehensive economic cooperation agreement, may cover new areas such as labour, environment, trade and gender and SMEs, apart from traditional areas like goods, services and investments, according to government officials.

“India is no longer apprehensive about discussing new areas, such as labour and environment, as it has unilaterally been taking number of steps to improve its domestic regulations. But it will be careful about not taking on stringent commitments that could act as non-tariff barriers,” an official told businessline.

Renewed talks

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his Canadian counterpart Mary Ng, who had detailed discussions on the state of negotiations at the sixth India-Canada Ministerial Dialogue on Trade and Investment (MDTI) in Ottawa last week, had another round of talks through a video meeting on Monday.

“Held a meeting with Mary Ng, Minister for International Trade, Canada. Discussed the contours of the Early Progress Trade Agreement,” Goyal tweeted on Tuesday.

India and Canada re-launched negotiations for the EPTA in March 2022. While the idea behind the EPTA is to go for the low-hanging fruits before taking the next step of including more areas in the full-fledged CECA, the pact covers a large number of sectors.

7th Round

“The tracks covered in the seventh round of negotiations in April include goods (tariff), sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS), technical barriers to trade (TBT), rules of origin and origin procedures, customs and trade facilitation, environment, labour, trade in services (telelom/ financial services/ professional services/ temporary entry of workers, dispute settlement, institutional and core provisions,” the official said. Discussions on investment and trade remedies are to be held later.

As the negotiations are at an advanced stage in the important areas of market access for goods and services, there is an optimism that the pact may get concluded soon.

“Both sides have agreed to avoid sensitive areas in the EPTA. So, there is a good chance that negotiations will move on a fast track and a pact may be in place by the end of this year or early next year,” the official said.

India-Canada bilateral trade in goods reached about $8.2 billion in 2022, registering a 25 per cent growth compared to 2021, per government figures.

New areas such as labour, environment, gender and SMEs are also being discussed by India in its FTA negotiations with other trading partners such as the EU and the UK.