Canada’s stringent short term visa law hurting services trade: Sitharaman

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has raised concerns about the stringent short term visa law of Canada which has adversely impacted services trade from India.

“Sitharaman raised the issue of reforms in the Temporary Foreign Workers Programme (TWFP) which has been made more stringent by Canada and which adversely impacts the services trade from India,” the Commerce Ministry said in a statement here on Saturday.

A bilateral meeting was held on Friday in the national capital between Canadian Minister of International Trade François-Philippe Champagne and Sitharaman.

Emphasising on the importance of the ease of movement for intra-company transferees on short term visa for filling in certain crucial and specialised activities, Sitharaman said: “Indian companies who have made investments in Canada are finding it difficult to source key employees from the country.”

Assuring steps to facilitate the ease of movement for professionals into Canada, Champagne described the recent initiative under the Global Skill Strategy Programme wherein the visa application for high skilled technicians, professors, researchers etc. will be disposed off within two weeks’ time.

“For professionals visiting for less than a year, a fast track process is being set up which will be similar to a concierge service. This will be extended to companies invested in Canada on a priority basis,” Champagne said.

Both the ministers agreed that the present trade which is in the range of $8 billion is much below its potential and there is a need to conclude Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in a time bound manner for ensuring higher levels of trade in goods and services.

The discussion focussed on expanding bilateral trade and investment between the two countries. Both sides agreed to expedite the conclusion of Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) and CEPA.

Champagne pointed out the interest shown by Canadian Pension Funds in the Indian market and emphasised on the need for FIPA which will provide the required predictability and protection to investments.

Both the ministers also discussed the potential benefit of business to business interface and, therefore, the importance of CEO Forum to provide the required perspective for improvement in bilateral trade and investment.

While the Indian side of the CEO Forum has been reconstituted, the Canadian side will have to reconstitute the Forum. It was agreed by the Trade Minister of Canada to reconstitute the CEO Forum by the end of March.

Both the ministers agreed on ensuring that the business leaders from both sides should meet at the earliest and provide key inputs for furthering the bilateral relationship.