Prime Minister Trudeau participates in an armchair discussion at the Canada-India Business Forum
CHANDA KOCHHAR: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. A very warm welcome, again, and a warm welcome to India.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: You know, you have a long trip here in India, and everybody is really looking forward to knowing more about this visit. There’s a lot of common things between the two countries, because, you know, we are large democracies, we are multicultural societies, and of course, Canada is a home for many people from Indian origin. But you know, beyond that there’s business, there’s trade ties and so on, but I think we should start by actually telling the audience why we are late here today.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I look through this audience of business leaders, which is obviously, therefore mostly men and I point out that I spent the last hour and a half, which was only scheduled for an hour, but hour and a half, speaking with extraordinary business leaders who happen to be women, and sharing their stories and listening to the great ideas they had to bring forward. Everything from bring your mother-in-law-to-work day, to…no, as way of encouraging daughters-in-laws to be more respected in the workplace and at the home when they return from the workplace, to dream gaps, to a broad range of things. It was an extraordinarily important moment to recognize that there is much work to be done on gender equality and gender parity and opportunities for women in business.
Canada, as you know, has done a lot on gender parity in my cabinet, and we’re putting forward lots of initiatives about supporting women in business, but we’re doing so recognizing that Canada actually has a larger wage disparity between men and women than many other countries, including the United States. So we have a lot of work to do and we’re very conscious of that.
Similarly, India with, I think, only 26 or 27% women in the workplace or women participation in the workforce is one of the lowest in the world, and it’s something that there needs to be a lot of work done on. So I was very, very pleased to really dig into it. And if I came out with any real concrete recommendation, it’s that business leaders, across the spectrum, here in India and around the world, should take the time to listen to the challenges and the barriers faced by the women who are successful in their organizations to know how to do a better job of empowering more women. Because getting women to be more successful in our businesses is not just a nice thing to do or a good thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do. It leads to more economic success and it leads to better impacts, on not just your workforce and your business, but on the community that you serve.
So that’s why I was late. It was a very good reason. But I’m very glad to be here with you all now.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Yes, and of course what I told our women can lead their voices. Another reason why we were late was because we were supposed to talk only for an hour, but here there was one man who listened to us patiently for more than one and a half hours. So (laughter)…so, you spent this morning actually, also meeting a lot of business leaders, you know, you would have heard from them as what, even our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, says that India is reforming to transform and that there are a lot of business opportunities here. So, you know, what is your feedback about your meetings with these business leaders?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well, first of all it was a very exciting morning of meeting, as you say, with a broad range of business leaders and talking about the tremendous connections between Canada and India. Whether it’s in natural resources, or in the tech sector in IT, in creativity, in biotech and pharmaceuticals, there are huge compatibilities and complementarities between India and Canada. So much so that coming out of the meetings this morning, and a few other meetings that we’ve had, we’re able to announce today over 5,000 new jobs in Canada and over a billion dollars of investment in Canada. Of course, that’s… yeah…
But of course on the other side of things, we also talked an awful lot about Canadian companies investing in India. In partnerships here, in our pension funds, and investors being extremely active in all the amazing things going on here in India. So, this was really a win/win morning, a win/win day for all of us, and I’m excited about the opportunities in the Canada-India friendship which as you said, like any friendship between two countries, is much more than just political, although it’s very good on the political side, is also people-to-people ties, there’s also cultural, economic and business; there’s so many different ways we can engage and for all that I’m spending a week here, I could spend three weeks and still not be connecting enough with all the different things going on.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Yes, as you said, you know, the business opportunities actually can be immense, because, just to put the perspective again, I think India is also going through a huge amount of structural reforms. Whether it’s in the form of formalization of the economy, bringing in more transparency, the bankruptcy code, the GST and so on. So those are the big structural reforms, backed by a lot of changes in the financial system itself, in terms of deepening of the bond markets and so on. Also backed by the huge opportunities which are, one, from the fact that India is a young country, so the demographic opportunities but also all the infrastructure spends that would take place in the country, including a wide range like affordable housing and so on. And then the focus of the government on ease of doing business. So it’s opportunities, business-to-business, it’s also a lot of opportunities for the large Canadian funds that exist because, for them, they can pick to participate in projects which are either new or which are under implementation, or also which are completed and in a way offer a kind of, sort of annuity return.
So the trade that we talk of between the two countries, which is maybe $8 billion plus $2 billion, I think in a way, pales into insignificance if you…as you spoke about the US/Canada movement of almost 2 billion a day. So I think if the two countries get together and focus, there’s a lot more that we can do.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well, I think one of the things -- you talk about business-to-business or government-to-government -- for me I like to think about people-to-people. Entrepreneurs working together, employees/employers figuring out better ways to engage, and also the student connections. The fact that we have about 125,000 Indian students come to Canada every year, it’s number two in the world as the source of foreign students in Canada but rapidly on the way to number one. Hopefully later this year, India will be number one. And that means that there are tremendous opportunities to create dynamic outcomes in Canada and in India.
And I think, you know, for all the trade ties and business ties, if we focus on those people-to-people connections and friendships, the familial relations, the young people looking to discover the world, wanting to expand in a country like Canada where we provide tremendous education, tremendous opportunities to then bring home some of that expertise and bring some Canadian investments with it. hose kinds of synergies are what I am most excited about. So for me, the Canada/India friendship, as important as the business council is, is always mostly and firstly about people.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Yes indeed. I think, you know, you’ve shown this through just the few days into your trip as well. I mean, you’ve visited India here of course, as you said, when you were 10 years old with your father. You are here now with your lovely children and your wife, and of course in these couple of days you’ve visited a place of historical importance, like the Sabarmati Ashram or a tourist interest like the Taj Mahal or a religious interest like the Akshardham Temple, and then of course, you know, the (inaudible) as well, so who better then to talk about the people-to-people ties, but you know, I would say that we also experience this even as we do business, as you rightly said, because it’s about the employee connections. It’s about as…we as a bank, we…you know, opened what we call the Student Connect Program, that before the students go from here to attend colleges in Canada, they can actually put their fixed deposit here and everything online, you know, when they move there, the money gets transferred, paid to their college, and life becomes much simpler.
So, you know, what are your thoughts about how your family is enjoying India and how are they mingling with the culture?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well, I was incredibly fortunate as a kid to have been brought here as you mentioned, by my father. I spent a whole week here, while he was working on (inaudible) with heads of government meeting, which meant when I went down to the Taj Mahal and to see Fatehpur Sikri, I want alone with a body guard, so this time, being able to bring my kids to the Taj Mahal and see it through their eyes as well was extremely important for me. But more than that, being able to share this extraordinary place where the future is being created every single day. You see the potential here, you see the activity of what’s going on already and you know that in the coming years, sharing with my kids and understanding myself the incredibly important evolution that’s going on right here, is very, very exciting.
And the kind of thought leadership as well being led by folks like you, and I wanted to mention this earlier, when I was talking about gender parity, you’re launching a really amazing initiative around a gender pledge that you want companies to make, about hiring and empowering more women. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Yes, so we discussed, you know, in the roundtable just before this, about how companies can actually pledge to increase the participation of women in the entire economic activity. Because as the Prime Minister said, it’s not just about a “nice to have approach,” it’s actually a more economic imperative now. So, you know, we discussed about a lot of ease. We said, can we encourage the girls to dream. Can we educate the girls more, because, you know, you educate one man you actually educate one person, but actually you educate a woman, you tend to educate many more people in the family. And how do you empower women? By creating an environment which is more enabling for them to grow.
So, you know, everybody around this table was so inspired with each of their stories, that we said that we want to create a pledge to say that we would encourage more and more women participation in every field of activity that we are in.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: That’s just wonderful. Yes.
And I encourage all of you to take a look at signing that pledge. It would be wonderful to have more companies do that.
But you mentioned my kids, and the travel around. One of the things that I really wanted to share with them is the extraordinary diversity of India. Being able to go to a beautiful mandir, to be able to go to the Golden Temple tomorrow, to be able to go to a mosque later in the week, to highlight the extraordinary diversity and pluralism of India. Which isn’t without its challenges, but to understand that diversity of views, of background is an incredible source of strength. A source of resilience in an organization, in a community, in a country, to be able to listen to different points of view and learn from them and draw on them, and not feel challenged… well yes, feel challenged, but not threatened by them, I think is a sign of maturity in a community and certainly a country like India, you know, can and should be leading the way on respect and diversity, and I think highlighting this incredible diversity so my kids understand it’s not just Canada that is diverse but other countries around the world that are working hard on it as well, is a good thing.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Thank You.
It’s because we as a country actually take a lot of pride in the rich heritage that we have and the kind of diversity that we have. So, thank you for acknowledging that and thank you for appreciating that.
Moving a little bit, again, back to business. You know, you’ve actually expressed a lot of interesting thoughts on international trade and, you know, global order for trade. So, would you want to share that, you know, what you’ve done with other countries and how do you perceive this (inaudible).
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well, we’ve seen a narrative around the world in politics and in societies, particularly across the western world, where there is a worry about the impacts of trade, the impacts of globalization on ordinary citizens, on workers. There’s an anxiety that perhaps the success that we’ve created hasn’t been contributing to wellbeing of individuals, of workers and of their families. And at a time where the world, in many ways, is closing off and turning away from trade, Canada is really proud that we’ve been signing big trade agreements. We’ve just signed a free trade agreement with the European Union that is market access to 500 million people and the second biggest economy in the world, if you put it all together. We are still working on NAFTA but I can tell you it’s doing well and we’re very confident that we’re going to continue to enjoy free trade with the United States and Mexico. And we just signed onto the CPTPP, which is a block of 11 Pacific countries representing also a significant share of the world economy.
We know that trade leads to growth, but if we’re able to keep public support for trade deals in Canada, it’s because we’re also making very significant moves to make sure that the benefits of trade actually are shared with ordinary citizens. That small businesses get to benefit from greater access to international markets, that workers get opportunities, that Indigenous peoples, that women, that marginalized communities also can benefit from these trade deals, is what we need to look at as we continue to make a case for global trade.
Similar things on immigration, at a time as the world is tending to close in and close off and worry about immigration, Canada is increasing our amount of immigration and, quite frankly, the most common complaint I get from Canadians, from Canadian businesses, from people in general is: you’re not bringing in enough immigrants. And that’s a rare thing in this world. We know that we can do that because we have created success and we’re going to continue to contribute to that success. We’ve brought forward a global skill strategy that means a company can bring in top talent from around the world, get a visa in less than two weeks. Because we know that when you bring in a senior person from overseas, you’re going to hire lots of local Canadian graduates and talent. So understanding that openness to immigration, openness to international talent is an incredibly positive advantage in the world stage, are all different ways that we’re looking at globalization as a real opportunity.
But we understand that there’s an anxiety in the world that everything’s changing. That AI, that automation, that the global supply chains are a threat to the way things have been. But instead of trying to hold on to the way things were as long as we can, Canada is saying: okay, let’s leap forward with confidence into this transition and get more of our young people to study in STEM areas. Whether it’s in universities, or community colleges, or trade schools, let’s make sure that we’re investing in AI research. Canada is leading on AI research right now across the country. We’re leading on automation, on self-driving cars, there’s amazing numbers of tech innovations we’re doing because Canada’s decided we want to be part of the future, not fighting the future. And I see a very similar approach here in India that is very, very exciting to be able to connect what our two countries are doing and augment the impact that we can have in leading the entire world.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Yes, so as you talk of, you know, the ability of the two countries to connect actually, when you met our Prime Minister, Mr. Modi, earlier, you know, he had in fact said that Canada and India are made for each other. So, and I’ve also followed Canadian media that, you know, highlights four to five specific industries where India and Canada can cooperate. So with this visit in India, you know, do you have some two, three very specific results that you would want to see achieved?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well I think… thinking about Canada more often as a place for investment, as a place to draw investment from, our pension funds, our great partners in investment here in India, but as you look to expand in the global marketplace, the Canadian workforce, the Canadian diversity, the Canadian opportunities to access global markets through our free trade deals, are definitely there. And I think in general, if this visit can get people to reflect on the fact that we work together so well. We are the two largest democracies in the world. One by population, the other by surface area.
We should be doing better things together. And to really highlight the close ties, the incredible opportunities is what this trip is all about. And it’s not, you know, a trip…a handshake and a photo op. We are taking our time as a Canadian delegation. I’m of course going across, but we have a broad range of ministers who are travelling to all different parts of the country to really make sure that people realize that there is a tremendous potential, as of yet undeveloped, in the Canada/India relationship.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Absolutely, we have one more thing in common, that is the fastest growing G7 country in the world, and the fastest growing large economy in the world.
So I think if we can get together, actually the business ties can be much bigger from where we are today. And, as I said, even in India, you know, the fact is that the demography itself is a huge dividend and offers a huge marketplace for the Canadian companies. And it’s not just that India is a young country, the fact is that India’s going remain young for many years to come, even as the rest of the world grows old. And the second is that…
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: That’s a neat trick.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Yes.
And the second is that the infrastructure investment that we need to make in India, going forward, is such a huge opportunity. And, as I said, today we have an opportunity in even the projects that are completed, which a lot of Canadian funds are actually buying into, it’s because once the projects are completed, there’s a continuous demand for the products that they produce. And then there are all the new investments that would take place. So there is indeed a huge amount of opportunity.
You know, is there anything specific on any of the other industries that you would want to share?
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Oh, one of the things that people often think of when you turn to Canada is you think about the natural resources and, yes, whether it’s wood fiber, whether it’s minerals, whether it’s energy sources, Canada certainly is and will continue to be a great opportunity for high-quality natural resources, you know, done responsibly, sustainably, and in safe ways and in increasingly innovative ways. And that remains. I mean, India with the growing economy will always have a tremendous demand for reliably sourced natural resources. But to think as well about what I think our greatest resource is our people. And of course, 1.3 million of our people, which is a significantly larger proportion here in Canada than it is in India. We’re only 36 million. The proportion of South Asians, or specifically Indo-Canadians is one of our great strengths. Where we are innovative in our high-tech clusters, like Kitchener-Waterloo, areas across the country where we are showing that investing in education, investing in creativity, investing in the knowledge economy is the path of the future.
We’ve just announced a super-cluster strategy that’s going to provide network opportunities for companies. I often hear from Indian companies, or foreign investors when they come in, they are like: okay, we can come but we don’t have networks to plug into. We’re looking for opportunities but we don’t always know where the best opportunities are. Well, the super-clusters initiative will allow you to connect with a network of academic and research institutions, you know, established large businesses working collaboratively; small business and startups, all plugged in around a thematic area that will create multiplier effects on innovation and economic growth. So there’s a lot of exciting things that we’re doing in Canada and I’m just very hopeful that more and more Indian investors, companies, and employers look at the opportunity that Canada provides.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Yes, thank you. I think I can also give our example about you know, the fact that we set up our bank then in 2003, but it’s a full-service bank there. And, again, the ease of doing business that we saw there helped us grow. And of course we’ve committed a good amount of capital there, but it’s a $7 billion business there where I think we play a role both ways: Indian companies setting up business in Canada, and the Canadian companies wanting to set up business in India. And the entire trade flow between India and Canada, that’s the business side.
The people-to-people connection side, you know, as I was mentioning earlier, we make life easier for students who migrate into Canada, we participate in the diaspora, you know, that really exists in Canada, and of course we also participate a little bit on, you know, the disabilities side, the Helen Keller Institute, and so on and so forth.
So, you know, as you said as Indian companies go there, or Indian businesses go there, similarly, you know, it’s more than 400 Canadian companies who are already present in India and there are 1,000 more who are looking to set up business in India. And I think India is doing everything possible to improve that ease of doing business, so that Canadian companies, you know, would be able to actually grow their businesses here in India as well.
So, I know Prime Minister, we are running short of time, but, you know, it’s… what I would say is that it’s such a pleasure to interact with you because, you know, the country that is India has been watching you for the last few days, and I think they are really quite enchanted in the way you have tried to mingle. You know, not just with the business part of India, but mingle with the culture of India, with you, yourself and your family. And, I mean, who better to look up to, you know, on this respect, when we’ve seen you participate in the Indian activities in Canada as well. You know, the Independence Day March and doing the Bhangra.
So, it’s really, you know, rare to come across a head-of-state who focuses so much on business, at the same time spends so much time on, you know, topics like women empowerment, and who takes time out to actually create the people-to-people connection and the cultural connection.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well, I’ve been very lucky that I used to be a school teacher, and for me, discovering the world is all about curiosity and I’m curious about what leads to business success. I’m curious about what leads to personal success. I’m curious about how people view the future, how they view their present, how we want to work together to get there. So I’m always asking questions and, trust me, there’s a lot of things to ask questions about here in India. And over these past few days, and the coming few days I just look forward to learning all the different ways in which Canada can be a better partner to India, where India can be a better partner to Canada, and that we can work together, to grow together, to learn from each other and create a better, safer, more prosperous world for all.
I think there’s a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow this Canada/India relationship. And it’s an extraordinary pleasure for me to be able to be here and share it with my family as well.
CHANDA KOCHHAR: Thank you.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you.
Thank you very much to all of you. Thank you.