Harper promotes India trade

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is pitching Canada as a potential sales partner to business leaders in India during his whirlwind three-day tour of the South Asian economic powerhouse.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar pose with the 2010 Olympic relay torch in Mumbai on Monday. Kumar will carry the torch in Toronto next month. ((Prime Minister's Office, Jason Ransom/Associated Press))
Prime Minister Stephen Harper pitched Canada as a potential sales partner to business leaders in India on Monday, the first day of his whirlwind three-day tour of the South Asian economic powerhouse.

Harper told an audience of Indian business investors at a hotel in Mumbai that the combined GDP of the two countries is on its way to $4 trillion, and yet two-way trade is just $5 billion.

That represents a lot of untapped business potential, he said.

Harper's efforts to strengthen economic ties with India are a recognition of India's rising importance as one of the world's fast-growing economies.

Harper tells members of the Mumbai business community that Canada and India have a lot of room to expand trade with each other. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

"The South Asian tiger has awoken and the world is standing in awe," he told the business leaders.

Tourism is one area of the Canadian economy Harper is hoping India can give a boost to, and on Monday he said the Canadian Tourism Commission would launch a campaign to attract more Indian travellers to Canada. To promote the campaign, Harper met with Indian Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, whom Harper announced would carry the Olympic relay torch in Toronto on Dec. 17.

On another area of economic interest, Canada's nuclear industry, the prime minister was scheduled to meet with Indian leaders in New Dehli on Tuesday for a round of talks on nuclear co-operation.

The two sides are expected to discuss a proposed civil nuclear agreement that would pave the way for Canada to sell nuclear technology to India. Nuclear trade between the two countries has been stalled since 1974, when India tested its first atomic weapon with the unauthorized help of Canadian nuclear technology.

Harper's visit Monday had a more sombre beginning as he toured the city's Chabad House, the Jewish outreach centre where gunmen killed six hostages a year ago as part of an assault on a number of targets in Mumbai.

On Wednesday he'll be in Amritsar, where he will visit the Golden Temple.

With files from The Canadian Press