Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the stalled trade negotiations with India.
Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s minister of trade and export development, wrote to Mary Ng, the federal minister of trade, complaining about the lack of information or progress on trade negotiations with India.
“I wish to express my serious concern as to the complete lack of updates that Provinces and Territories have received regarding Canada’s negotiations with India of an Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA),” Mr. Harrison wrote.
“As you know, Saskatchewan’s exports to India usually rank first or second amongst the provinces and are worth over $1 Billion to our provincial economy.”
“It is unacceptable to our Government that we first heard of a pause in EPTA negotiations through the media one week ago and have received no explanation from Government of Canada subsequent to that,” he added in the letter.
He also implied Mr. Trudeau is picking a fight with India for domestic political gain and said the government has “once again put its own domestic political interests ahead of the national economic interest.”
“Clearly, what your Government has done has put the already strained Canada-India relationship in even further peril after some improvements following the Prime Minister’s disastrous trip to India in 2018,” he said.
A readout from India’s Ministry of External Affairs said Mr. Modi conveyed New Delhi’s “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada.”
Protests by Sikh activists in Canada who seek to create an independent Khalistan in India have been criticized by India’s government.
The lack of action on trade with India has been felt by Saskatchewan’s economy in the past, according to University of Regina economics professor Jason Childs.
“The tariffs hurt us. And there wasn’t a whole lot of traction at the federal level on this,” said Mr. Childs.
“I can understand the frustration because … it’s a big export market for us. And if it doesn’t grow, or worse yet, becomes further restricted, we’re going to feel it,” he said.
Farm groups are also feeling disappointed.
“As producers, we count on … both levels of government to look after some of our interests abroad,” said Bill Prybylski of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan. “It appears, without knowing all the details, it appears that the government is dropping the ball on our behalf.”
In the last year alone, Saskatchewan exported around $450 million of pulse crops to India, Mr. Prybylski said.
And while it’s unclear if the fallout from the prime minister’s trip will lead to more trade friction, he said it’s a concern.
“Anytime there’s a glitch in that market or a pullback in trade agreements, that just creates more uncertainty in the market for our products,” Mr. Prybylski said. “And obviously that will be likely reflected in commodity prices for the products that we grow.”
Mr. Harrison’s letter went on to say federal indifference is one of the reasons Saskatchewan has opened nine trade offices and investment offices abroad.
“We will continue to take care of our interests, even if you will not,” the letter concludes.
Noé Chartier contributed to this report.