Canada poised to become global education hub: Jenifer Daubeny
“I moved to India just about five months ago and I have already begun to enjoy the spicy food here,” Ms Jennifer Daubeny, Consul General, Consulate General of Canada in Bangaluru, said, as she bit into a piece of Chilly Chicken at the roof top restaurant, Infinity, in Hotel Novotel, Vizag. “And tomorrow I will be visiting Vijayawada, where I hear the food is more spicy. Canadian cuisines are not this spicy,” she added, with a smile.
We caught up with the Consul General for about two hours during her visit to Visakhapatnam to attend the CII Partnership Summit on January 27. She was visibly impressed with the aura of the restaurant, overlooking the unending expanse of the blue, undulating carpet that is the Bay of Bengal on one side and the spread of the city on the other. “I have got to admit that you have a beautiful place here,” she said.
During the interaction with AK Sabharwal and Amit Mitra she spoke on a variety of issues related to Indo-Canadian bilateral trade, which, she pointed out, holds out tremendous potential.
She is optimistic that the on-going negotiations between the two countries on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) could be completed and finalised within two years, which would release a fresh burst of energy into bilateral trade between the two sides.
CEPA was expected to be signed by the end of 2013 and it was expected that it would help boost bilateral trade to $ 15 billion, but it did not happen due to a variety of reasons.
Ms Jennifer also reiterated that trade between India and Canada has grown in the last five years or so, but there is a lot more that can be done. “Canada has begun to see India as an interesting place to do business, as investors are increasingly looking at Asia.
Ms Jennifer, who is from the West Coast of Canada (Vancouver in British Columbia) has been in Canadian diplomatic services for over 25 years. This is her first assignment in India, having had previous postings in Prague, London and Mexico.
She does find Bangaluru interesting, although the “traffic will take some more time to get used to.”
Where does Indo-Canadian trade stand today?
I think we have made good progress in recent years. The relationship between the two countries is a long standing one, rooted in shared values of democracy and based on expanding economic engagement. The Indian Canadian Community has a long history in Canada. Right now there are about 375 Canadian companies operating in India. Companies such as Bombardier, Magna, McCain, Linamar have been ‘making in India’ for many years. On the other side of the coin, about 100 Indian companies are invested in Canada. But, having said this, I feel that there is a lot more potential. Canadian companies are also now keen on coming to India. Initially, the US was the first market for Canadian investors, followed by Europe. Now we are pushing for Asia and here India is a big market for us.
How does the two-way foreign direct investment picture look?
The two-way FDI between Canada and India had touched about CAD 5 billion in 2015 and was skewed in favour of investments from India into Canada, which had accounted for CAD 3.9 billion. However, when we factor in financial investments from large institutional investors such as the Canadian Pension funds, we estimate that Canadian investment into India now exceeds CAD $ 12 billion.
But why are Canadian companies not investing in India at the desired pace?
We are now trying to educate our companies about the Indian market. Once this campaign gathers more pace, which I am sure will happen we will see a real surge in bilateral trade and new investments coming from both the sides. We are already active in the IT, pharma, aerospace and manufacturing space in India.
How is the Indo-Canadian relationship in recent years moving forward?
There is no question that the trading relationship between the two countries is growing and will continue to. A recent significant event was the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi to Canada in April 2015, the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Canada in over 42 years. The Prime Ministers have again met since then. As Mr Modi told our Prime Minister Mr Trudeau at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Canada and India “are made for each other”.
The volume of trade between the two sides stood at about $ 5 billion by 2015-16, registering a 16 per cent growth. But as I said earlier, there is a lot more potential.
Which are the areas that hold out significant growth opportunities?
I feel that there are good opportunities for growth in sectors such as food and agri-food, energy and clean technology, education, skill development, infrastructure and aerospace. India can continue to benefit from Canadian expertise in key areas such as hydro power, solar power and other advanced technologies like fuel cells, biomass energy and even tidal energy.
In which areas do Canada play an important role in India?
Canada plays an important role in India in the area of food security and agriculture. As the largest supplier of imported pulses and an exporter of up to a million tonnes of potash to India in recent years, Canada is a trusted partner that is helping India meet its food security objectives. India can use Canadian know-how and expertise to increase agriculture production and reduce wastage, particularly in the areas of logistics, food storage and cold chain distribution.
But there has been some delay in the CEPA negotiations. Where does it stand today? What are the roadblocks remaining?
(Smiles) See, such trade agreements is a long and complex process. Even the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada took over seven years of negotiations. I cannot say about the remaining road blocks in the negotiations between India and Canada, as both countries do certain things differently. But, there has definitely been a gathering of momentum, especially after the meeting between the two Prime Ministers and we are now working more intensely. I think it may be finalised within a couple of years.
What about the tourism sector, which we feel have has immense potential. For instance, Canada is known for its water sports. And we have beautiful beaches here. Why are not Canadian companies coming to the Indian tourism sector?
(Smiles) Yes a lot can be done here. I strongly feel the major tour operators and airlines can build up a stronger campaign to increase tourism between both the countries. The campaign has been flagged off, but we need to see how to expand this campaign. I think Canada can help the Indian tourism market in the higher end niche tourism sector like eco-tourism.
What about the education sector? Now that the US administration is mulling tightening of visa norms, what opportunities lie for Indian students in Canada?
Yes, we are promoting education in Canada in a big way. Right now there are about 50,000 students from India studying in Canadian institutions, a 33 per cent increase. I must say that Indian students are now increasingly seeing Canada as a destination for high quality education at an affordable cost.
How exactly are you promoting Canadian education?
We have started a new concept called cooperative education. Primarily, under this concept, we design the curriculum jointly with the industry so that it suits the requirements of the industries. For this reason, our placements are high. Also, the industries take the students for internship, which can naturally be transformed into permanent jobs. (Smiles) Another attraction is that education in Canada can cost lesser than in other countries. A further concrete measure of engagement are the 15 MoUs signed since April 2015 between India’s skills collaboration in various sectors.
What about the visa process…?
Oh, we have significantly eased the visa process for students, tourists as well as investors. We have a full-fledged immigration centre here and visa centres all across. We are trying to make the process more easy. Our network in India is one of the Canadian Government’s most robust. We have eight points of service for promoting trade and investment in our three Consulates General, four satellite trade offices and our High Commission in Delhi, which is now the largest Canadian mission in the world.