‘India’s civil nuclear liability law continues to be an area of concern for Canada’

NAYANIMA BASU New Delhi | Updated on January 19, 2018

NADIR PATEL, Canada’s High Commissioner to India

Canada is planning to expand the programme and a joint working group is on it, says High Commissioner

Civil nuclear liability in India continues to be an area of concern for Canada, says Nadir Patel, Canada’s High Commissioner to India, which has agreed to supply 3,000 tonnes of uranium to India under a $254-million five-year deal. In an interview to BusinessLine, Patel also pitched for expediting talks on the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA). Edited excerpts:

Where is India positioned in the radar of the new Canadian government?

Our new Prime Minster (Justin Trudeau) has made it very clear on more than one occasion that India remains a top priority for Canada. Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi met him before he (Trudeau) assumed power when he visited Canada last April, and also had telephonic exchanges after our new PM was elected. We anticipate that trade, investments and people-to-people linkages will continue.

When is Trudeau expected to visit India?

No specific dates at this time. Everybody agrees that a visit is worthwhile. We look forward to his visit at some point.

On the civil nuclear deal, although uranium supplies have started, Canada is planning to expand the programme and a joint working group is working on it.

The joint working group has a mandate that goes beyond uranium sales. It is about other areas of co-operation within the broader ecosystem. It’s about regulatory cooperation, about policy exchanges and sharing best practices.

The group is more related to broader nuclear collaboration. The uranium deal is more of a commercial deal that typically would be negotiated between commercial entities.

When did the group last meet?

A nuclear delegation came to India last October, and that is when they met.

Is it true that Canada still has some concerns over the civil nuclear liability law in India?

This continues to be on our radar screen. India has brought forward some ways of navigating this. But that does not entirely eliminate the potential concern, but it also doesn’t prohibit or inhibit business. Discussions are on.

The BIPPA between the two countries is also pending. Will it hamper investments coming in from Canada?

We remain interested in concluding the agreement, but have had no next steps yet, given that our new government is in place and negotiators are awaiting instructions on that. However, the level of investment is increasing rapidly. What I tell India is that a BIPPA will help in bringing in even more investments.

India has done a lot on the foreign direct investment front. Does that induce Canadian firms to invest more here?

Some of the moves are good. But we would like to see more of that. Some other reforms around taxation are required.

On taxation, some companies, such as Vodafone, Cairn and others, have faced trouble. But, Modi recently said that retrospective taxation is a thing of past. Your view?

We want stability and predictability. We are ready to pay taxes, but knowing what to pay makes it more predictable. We are watching these high-profile cases very carefully because we are concerned about the precedent it will set.

Talks on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) are on for the past six years, and it was almost ready to be concluded in 2014. Where is it stuck?

I do not think it is stuck. Both sides have negotiated that there will not be any timeline. We want to negotiate the best deal for each other. Against that backdrop, there were times when negotiations slowed down, mainly when elections took place both in India and Canada. At this stage, our governments have said that they remain committed to trade liberalisation.

When will CEPA talks resume? Is a dialogue between both Trade Ministers expected soon?

No dates have yet been set. We are in wait for the moment and the new government is just settling down. We are trying to map out a date for the trade dialogue. Our trade minister has publicly stated India is one of the important markets.

What message are you getting from India on the resumption of CEPA talks?

No discussion on that yet.

Published on January 31, 2016

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