Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he will make India a core player in Canadian foreign policy considerations and energy exports if he becomes prime minister in 2019.
Scheer met with Modi in New Delhi on Tuesday, less than two months after he announced that he would be going to India to “repair and strengthen” bilateral ties in the wake of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s troubled trip in February.
Modi didn’t meet with Trudeau until he was six days into his trip, but the Indian prime minister met with Scheer two days after his arrival in the Indian capital.
Scheer said he told the leader of the energy-starved Asian giant that he would remove roadblocks standing in the way of pipeline expansion in order to help Canadian oil and gas access new markets.
“This would allow India to meet its growing demands with responsible and reliable energy,” he said.
India’s oil demand is projected to grow by 3.5 million barrels by 2035, accounting for one third of growth in global oil demand, global energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie reported in August.
The country imports a significant amount of oil from Iran, but is looking to diversify its oil supplies amid U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, which were prompted by Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
That means there’s a golden opportunity for players like Canada to jump in, according to Calgary-based energy consultancy JWN.
In an interview with the Canadian Press, Scheer said he blamed the Liberals for the failure of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project, which was abandoned last fall.
“It was cancelled because of Liberal regulatory changes. We continue to have tanker after tanker of foreign oil coming up the St. Lawrence into eastern Canadian markets directly because of the government’s decision,” Scheer said from New Delhi.
Trudeau has denied that characterization of events, saying in the House of Commons last month that the project was shelved due to a business decision made by TransCanada in the face of market forces and the falling price of oil.
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Scheer also touted the “tremendous potential for significantly expanded trade” between Canada and India.
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.
Canada and India have held at least 10 rounds of talks towards a trade deal dubbed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) since 2010, with little progress in sight.
The Harper 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.
Trudeau’s India trip did result in a deal for a billion dollars in new investment between Canada and India, which he said meant 5,800 jobs and a quarter of a billion dollars in direct investment in Canada. But details and timelines of the deal remain vague.
Scheer acknowledged hurdles in pursuing trade with India, but said he conveyed to Modi that a Conservative government will make India a major focus of efforts to expand free trade agreements.
Scheer also said Modi asked him for his take on the newly announced USMCA trade deal between Canada, the United States and Mexico. He says he told Modi that Canada had “prospered greatly” from the original NAFTA deal, and that the Trudeau Liberals had given up ground under the new deal while not adequately addressing sticking points such as steel and aluminum tariffs.
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Scheer also met with India’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri. He says he “made clear to them that as Prime Minister I would ensure that India will be an indispensable priority in all aspects of Canadian foreign policy.”
The remainder of Scheer’s trip was scheduled to be filled with meetings with business leaders. But he also found time to take a cricket lesson from the chief whip of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Anurag Thakur.
Scheer made no mention of Trudeau’s bungled trip to India, which 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.
When announcing his trip to India back in August, Scheer joked, “Don’t worry, I don’t dance and I’m not bringing a celebrity chef along with me.”
The trip is one of a series of foreign forays that the Conservative leader has been making to burnish his international credentials ahead of next year’s federal election.
— With files from the Canadian Press and Reuters