Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer says his upcoming trip to India will be focused on trade and foreign affairs, and free of the scandals that plagued Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s state visit to the country back in February.
Speaking to Conservative members and delegates at the national Conservative convention in Halifax on Friday, Scheer accused Trudeau of embarrassing Canada on the world stage and failing to tap into promising trade markets.
“From Japan to India to Australia, Justin Trudeau has embarrassed Canada and has failed to open new markets, and those failures have consequences for Canadians,” Scheer said. “Conservatives are going to work very hard to repair that damage.”
Scheer said he has already laid the groundwork with British Prime Minister Theresa May for future trade negotiations, and would look to achieve the same during his October visit to India.
“But don’t worry, I don’t dance and I’m not bringing a celebrity chef along with me,” he said. “The point is international trade and foreign affairs is a serious endeavour requiring serious leadership. It’s time for the grown-ups to be in charge again.”
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Trudeau’s nine-day trip to India was marred by an array of missteps, ranging from the awkward optics of his fashion choices to the firestorm ignited by the invitation of convicted attempted assassin Jaspal Atwal to two official receptions.
Scheer’s office says his trip will also last nine days, and will involve meetings with government officials, business tycoons and civil society and faith leaders.
India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, displacing France for sixth place among the world’s nations last year, yet trade with Canada remains sluggish. In 2012, the former Conservative government set a goal of increasing two-way trade to $15 billion by 2015. In 2017, it was about $8.4 billion.
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For eight years, Canadian and Indian officials have been in talks to work towards a free trade agreement. The Conservative government said in 2011 it hoped to conclude an economic partnership agreement with India in 2013. Five years later, there is still no agreement in place.
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— With files from the Canadian Press