Market Access Plan 2015-2017

CapitalPopulationTotal AreaCurrency
New Delhi1,259.7 million3,287,263 km²Indian Rupee

Why India Matters

India is:

  • Canada’s largest trading partner in South Asia; recognizing the significance of the Indian market, Canada has been increasing its trade support network, which now includes close to 50 trade commissioners in eight different locations;
  • a priority emerging market and one of Canada’s top three source countries for immigration;
  • Canada’s second-largest source of foreign students;
  • a longstanding bilateral partner with Canada; with a partnership based on shared values and enriched by strong people-to-people ties and a diaspora community in Canada of more than 1 million people;
  • the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country (with over 1.2 billion people [2014]), and the most populous democracy in the world; and
  • becoming increasingly urban, with three of the world’s top 10 megacities. According to the UN, Delhi is now the second largest urban agglomeration in the world, with Mumbai ranked seventh and Kolkata 10th.

Canada’s priorities for engagement in India are for Canada to:

  1. become a long-term, reliable partner for India’s energy and food security;
  2. enhance our position as a valued destination and partner in critical areas of education and innovation; and
  3. become a preferred supplier of capital and technology for infrastructure development.

Canada’s enhanced engagement with India has been underscored by a high number of official visits, including 32 visits by Canadian federal ministers and 13 visits by provincial premiers since 2006, along with visits by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009 and 2012 and a visit by Governor General David Johnston in February 2014.

Domestic Economic Environment

In November 2014, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a revised forecast showing India’s economic growth expected to accelerate to 5.4 percent in the year ending March 2015. India had seen growth in the range of 8 percent in the first decade of the 21st century, but the OECD noted that renewed high growth would require an expanded manufacturing base and upgraded infrastructure.

Reflecting this perceived gap, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (elected in May 2014) is pursuing a “Make in India” policy that principally aims to transform India into a manufacturing hub while eliminating unnecessary laws and regulations, making bureaucratic processes easier and shorter, and encouraging government to be more transparent, responsive and accountable. This should make investment for Canadians easier. While India maintains its 49 percent foreign ownership cap for joint ventures, and has made import substitution a prime goal, it should be noted that the railway sector has been opened to 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) and the longprotected insurance sector is now open to 49 percent as well.

The governing party’s 2014 election platform called for “minimum government, maximum governance,” and today the private sector is looking for results.

Key Figures – India
GDP$2,290.4 trillion
GDP per capita$1,818
GDP growth7.2%
Canada’s merchandise exports$3,198.8 billion
Canada’s merchandise imports$3.174.4 billion
Canada’s service exports$694 million
Canada’s service imports$851 million
Foreign direct investment$3.7 billion
Canadian direct investment in India$613 million
Potential long-term export growth4.7%

Canadian Commercial Interests in India


Worth more than $6.3 billion in 2014, bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and India grew nearly 10 percent from 2013 to 2014 and has more than doubled over the last 11 years. Canada’s key exports to India are still heavily weighted towards commodities (edible vegetables, certain roots and tubers, precious metals and stones, coins, ores, slag and ash, pulses, fertilizers, pulp and paper), while imports from India include precious metals and stones, organic chemicals, machinery, and iron and steel products.

Two-way investment is also important and in 2013 stood at approximately $4.4 billion, heavily weighted in India’s favour. Stock investment figures may underestimate corporate linkages as some Indian companies invest in Canada through affiliates. Recent large-scale acquisitions have been made, with Indian investors acquiring pulp mills, stakes in iron ore mines, oil and gas equipment and supply facilities and urea plants. Several more capital contributions in Canada are being considered, particularly in the oil-and-gas-related sectors. Canadian investments into India include manufacturing facilities for rail cars, automotive and other machinery and equipment, and processed agri-food products. Announcements were also made concerning significant real-estate investments.

Bilateral trade in services reached almost $1.5 billion in 2013 (the most recent year for which figures are available), an increase of 6 percent, with service exports up over 8 percent, at $694 million, and imports up over 4 percent, at $851 million. These service exports come largely in the form of engineering and financial services.

The presence of nearly 35,000 Indian students in Canadian institutions in 2013 contributed an estimated $584 million to the Canadian economy. In addition, over 180,000 Indian tourists visited Canada in 2014, and this number is expected to increase in 2015.

Creating a bridge between Canadian and Indian innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems is one of the latest areas of growth in the bilateral relationship. Significant progress in innovation linkages between Canada and India has occurred since the signing of the Canada-India Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation in 2005. In 2012, Prime Minister Harper announced the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-IMPACTS), with a $13.8 million commitment to advance initiatives aligned with key themes of safe and sustainable infrastructure, integrated water management and public health.

In March 2014, Canada launched the Canadian Technology Accelerator in India (CTA@India) program. CTA@India is a virtual business acceleration program to support promising technology SMEs’ access to entrepreneurial resources and global business opportunities. In addition, dozens of partnership development workshops and conferences have taken place in the key focus areas under the bilateral agreement, including in the areas of information and communications technology (ICT), health, nanotechnology, renewable energy, cybersecurity, intelligent transport and disaster management. Finally, in the past year, six joint research and development projects have been undertaken with the participation and funding of both Canadian and Indian industry and research partners.

Key Elements for Exporters to Consider

Growing wages, rapidly changing lifestyles and a race among international companies eager to capture the disposable income of India’s affluent middle-class consumers will result in dramatic changes to the market in the coming years. Business in India is extremely competitive, and a certain degree of skill is required to navigate the market and identify partners.

While bilateral trade and investment are poised for growth across numerous sectors and the potential is enormous in almost every one of these sectors, tariff and non-tariff barriers continue to pose major challenges to Canadian businesses. Among these barriers are foreign investment restrictions (especially in financial services and mining—sectors where Canada is a world leader), very high customs tariff rates, high local taxes, challenges in obtaining financing locally, lack of transparency, corruption risks and opaque regulations. Some of these issues are being addressed in the Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) negotiations, which aim to provide improved market access for Canadian goods into India and also provide certainty and predictability for Canadian service suppliers.

Competition in all sectors is high. Most of Canada’s competitors have identified the Indian market as a priority. It can be difficult for Canada to compete in this price-conscious market given high market entry costs complicated by distance and cross-cultural complexities.

The recent opening of a Canadian consulate general in Bengaluru provides an opportunity to build awareness, goodwill and traction in economically buoyant, high-tech South India. Similarly, following the creation on June 2, 2014, of Telangana, India’s 29th state, after the splitting of the state of Andhra Pradesh, Canada engaged immediately with the chief ministers of the resulting two new states.

Key Sectors


The expansion of India’s domestic aviation market has resulted in a 38 percent increase in the number of passengers over the past five years. The Government of India has attracted many foreign players to the market and has recently opened up FDI. Similar to the defence sector, the “Make in India” policy may favour those companies choosing to set up manufacturing in the country. Canadian aerospace firms, including those involved in flight simulator training, are active in the Indian market. A civil aviation memorandum of understanding is currently being developed to elicit greater private-public sector collaboration in this industry.

Agriculture and processed foods

With a population of more than 1.2 billion (2014), and a growing middle class with increasing buying power, India is a desirable market for many countries. The value of Canadian agricultural exports to India has increased steadily over the last decade to reach almost $916.1 million in 2014. Agricultural exports to India include pulses, oilcake, oilseeds, canola oil, fruit (apples), and food preparation. Canada recently achieved success in securing access for live bulls.

The grocery food market in India is worth more than $332 billion, with projections that it will become the fourth-largest such market in the world by the year 2020. India remains focused on food security and marketing initiatives such as “nutritional security,” which is a tag line used to increase health-conscious product consumption.

The hospitality sector also offers many high-value opportunities for Canadian companies to provide niche products for consumption, including meat products, canola oil, seafood, healthy snack foods, ice wine, frozen fruit, maple syrup and health products.

From a commercial perspective, agricultural equipment, machinery, storage (including cold storage), and bulk handling and processing machinery are all examples of high-demand technologies. Training in fields such as herd management, veterinary practices, genetics, breeding, and animal and plant husbandry practices that reduce endemic spoilage are also deemed of value by the Indian market.


The International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) determined that India is currently the world’s sixth-largest automotive manufacturer. The country’s high potential, both in terms of its domestic market and, increasingly, as a regional export hub, present opportunities for Canadian companies interested in trade or Canadian direct investment abroad. Furthermore, India’s interest in developing and applying new technologies, an objective of the country’s National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, makes it a potential partner for research and development partnerships. Some Canadian auto parts suppliers are already involved in Indian value chains.

Currently there are three Japanese OEMs (Toyota, Honda and Hino) and approximately 60 parts and machinery suppliers with capital investments in Canada. This sector also offers extensive ST&I and FDI opportunities for Canada in advanced technology vehicles.

Canadian suppliers are eager to increase their business with Japanese OEMs, mainly in North America but in other markets as well. Companies such as ABC Group, Linamar, Magna and Woodbridge Foam have established operations in Japan to help them develop sourcing opportunities and support their Japanese customers.

Defence and security

The Government of India plans to spend over US$100 billion over the next 10 years to modernize India’s defence forces, sourcing 70 percent from foreign manufacturers (although, going forward, the “Make in India” policy may favour those companies choosing to set up manufacturing in the country). Homeland security has become an extremely serious and pressing concern for India. Modernization and equipment acquisition are top priorities for the Indian military and security services. Major global defence contractors are flocking to India to take advantage of this opportunity. Accessing these opportunities will require a long-term and sustained commitment from Canadian companies.

Despite interest in the Indian defence market and the large number of potentially lucrative export opportunities, Canadian industry activity in India is modest and few companies hold contracts with the Indian government, given the challenges of navigating a complicated defence procurement system and India’s favouring of domestic suppliers. However, as the United States has surpassed Russia as the largest single source of India’s arms imports, the integrated nature of the North American defence industrial base and increased arms exports to India by American firms could benefit Canadian-based subcontractors to U.S. companies. Additionally, Indian interest in accessing advanced technology in the defence sector through licensing arrangements, industrial partnerships or joint ventures may provide an opening for Canadian industry to capitalize on Indian defence procurement projects.


The longstanding two-way relationship between Canada and India is dynamic, with education being a key area of mutual interest and enhanced collaboration. There are over 400 memoranda of understanding between institutions of higher learning in India and Canada. India aims to double its gross enrolment ratio to 30 percent by 2020 and has set a target of creating a skilled workforce of 500 million within the next 10 years. To achieve this, the Government of India is encouraging private sector initiatives. There are significant opportunities in India for foreign institutions to offer their expertise in scientific and applied research and in management and vocational training, both incountry as well as by sending increasing numbers of students overseas to study. Canada has a good reputation, but competition is strong from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Through the Government of Canada’s International Education Strategy, which identifies India as a priority market, as well as government-funded Mitacs programs and bilateral mechanisms in higher education cooperation, Canada will seek to bolster academic mobility and education marketing.

Forestry and wood products

The Indian market has a strong demand for wood, demand that is not currently serviced through domestic supply, and current imports will struggle to keep pace with growing demand. There is potential for medium- to longterm opportunities for Canadian wood products. Concrete and steel are the preferred building materials in housing construction, and wood-frame construction is currently a nascent, small-niche segment that uses very little wood. Opportunities for Canadian wood products tend to reside in the components for concrete forming, scaffolding, joinery (doors, windows and mouldings), packaging and the furniture sector. Canada recently achieved success in securing access for spruce and ash. Canadian exports of wood and wood articles to India were valued at $11.6 million in 2013, with lumber and related products contributing $11.3 million of that. Since 2009, the value of wood-product exports to India has risen more than fivefold.

Information and communications technology

The Indian telecommunications market is the fastest growing in the world, with an average of 10 million new subscribers every month. With more than 914 million telephone connections (landline and mobile), India has the second-largest telecommunications and wireless network in the world. This is creating significant challenges for telecommunications service providers, which Canadian companies can benefit from. Spectrum space is a challenge, and ways to increase capacity in the shift to 3G and eventually 4G will lead to huge new markets. Digital India, Prime Minister Modi’s vision to put government services on line, is another enormous opportunity. India’s media and entertainment industry is one of the fastest-developing sectors and India’s favourable regulatory environment and recent reforms, combined with the entry into force (on July 1, 2014) of the Canada-India Audio-Visual Co-Production Treaty, are creating several opportunities in this sector for Canadian firms. Several Indian ICT companies have integrated into the global value chains and have activities internationally, including in Canada. To capitalize on this, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service is helping run a Canadian Technology Accelerator program, which aims to bring Canadian start-ups into Indian incubators and Indian start-ups into Canadian incubators.

Transportation and infrastructure

India’s economic growth is placing huge demands on infrastructure. The Government of India has announced plans for the investment of $1 trillion during 2012-2017, 50 percent of which is planned to come from the private sector through public-private partnership facilities. This expenditure, which will be close to 8 percent of India’s GDP, will be utilized to address the need for roads, water, ports, airports, railways and urban infrastructure across the country. Canadian companies have expertise to offer in the planning, design and building of infrastructure. However, due to the size of these projects, robust domestic competition and the limited size of Canadian companies, the focus would be to have Canadian companies with niche expertise plug into large projects as subcontractors, or offer a particular product. These may include prebuilt green-build and wood products, in addition to specialized services such as intelligent transportation systems and sustainable urban design and urban planning. This may also include rail car technology, signalling, maintenance, and port and airport management systems.

The various transportation corridor projects, including the Delhi- Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), are of particular interest. The Dholera project, a part of the DMIC, is a potential target. There are also emerging opportunities related to the splitting of Andhra Pradesh State into Telangana State and the remaining Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh in particular will need to build a new capital city and invest heavily in all types of infrastructure as it seeks to build up its cities to replace Hyderabad—the capital of Telangana—as its economic engine. The role of Canadian pension and investment funds should not be overlooked in the infrastructure space. The potential for long-term investments in finished projects is growing, and many of these funds are now poised to increase their participation in such projects.

Financial services

India has a highly diverse financial sector undergoing rapid expansion. Dominated by its banks, which account for more than 60 percent of total assets held by the financial system, the sector includes insurance companies, commercial banks, cooperatives, pension funds, mutual funds and other financial entities. Several of India’s domestic banks also have established branches in offshore markets to serve their diaspora, including in Canada. Indians banks are also noted for their use of ICT, given the country’s challenges of providing traditional banking services in remote and rural areas. The potential role of Canadian pension funds in projects in India is also of considerable interest. Among the most notable such Canadian forays in India has been that of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which has invested $1.5 billion in the market since 2010.

Life sciences

The health-care sector in India, which is driven largely by the private sector, is estimated to grow to US$158 billion in 2017, up from US$78 billion in 2012—a 15 percent compound annual growth rate. There is substantial demand for high quality and speciality health-care services in India’s smaller cities and towns. A rise in the number of hospitals and the increased requirement for health-care facilities has led to demand for sophisticated medical devices and equipment. Most high-end medical devices such as implants and imaging equipment are imported by India or are locally manufactured by multinational companies. Despite exhibiting strong growth rates, the market remains disproportionately small relative to India’s population and faces the problem of lower budgetary allocation. However, factors such as greater share of health care in budgetary allocation, increasing health care expenditure, changing demographic profiles and greater spread of health insurance present a lot of scope for future development.


India’s mining sector contributes 2 percent to national GDP, and the country ranks fourth in the world in terms of the volume of minerals produced, after China, the United States and Russia. Nevertheless, the bulk of minerals produced are “nearto- surface” fuel minerals such as coal and lignite and metallic minerals like iron ore, chromite, bauxite and manganese. The major “deep in-situ” mineral produced is zinc, followed by copper and lead, with a negligible production of gold and silver. Up to now, India’s mining-sector administrative infrastructure, with its outdated policies, has been the principal barrier to the development of an exploration-led mining sector in the country. That is now set to change with the passing of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015 (MMDR) by the Indian Parliament on March 21, 2015. Among other things, the amendment introduces a system of seamless transfer of mineral concessions from one stage to another in the path of mine planning, development and production, and allows for the selling of concessions at a premium to a buyer.

The Canadian mining industry can play a significant role in providing mineral exploration-related investments, equipment and services, consultancy services in mine planning and development, environmental standards and green mining technology, mineral processing and modern mining tenement systems. While opportunities for open-cast mining applications in India are plentiful, underground mining is slowly picking up, opening up a market in the long run for all kinds of related equipment and services.

Oil and gas

Despite developing offshore and onshore production of its own, India is a net importer of energy and vulnerable to external shocks. Comparable to food, “energy security” is an ongoing theme in the country. India’s oil and gas equipment/supplies market is estimated at close to US$4 billion, with imported equipment and services worth 40 percent of the market. Areas of potential for Canadian suppliers include downhole tools, well-head testing equipment, seismic and aerogravity/aeromagnetic surveys, survey and stimulation vessels, subsea equipment and a variety of oil field equipment, extraction and recovery services and technologies. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is an area of increasing interest for Indian investment into Canada, as well as for long-term supply from Canada to India.

Sustainable technologies

Renewable energy has a unique status in the power domain in India because of its importance in supplementing the power sector and providing energy to rural and remote areas. The utilization of renewable energy sources is still relatively low in India, but the country’s next five-year plan has specific targets for renewables (up to 30 percent), presenting excellent business potential and opportunities for Canadian companies. Renewed growth and interest in the environment sector offer numerous opportunities for unique Canadian products and technologies such as green building techniques. In addition, as India plans to develop projects such as the National Ganga River Basin Plan, which will clean up the Ganges River, opportunities arise for Canadian water and wastewater companies in the country. This is one of the biggest infrastructure and clean tech developments in the world. Water supply and sanitation is a high-growth industry in India, only second to power generation, with demand for industrial process water and effluent/wastewater treatment increasing exponentially.

Major Negotiations and Agreements

Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)

The Canada-India CEPA negotiations were formally launched on November 16, 2010. Since then, nine rounds of CEPA negotiations have been held in both Delhi and Ottawa. Concluding the Canada-India CEPA remains a priority of the Government of Canada as it would improve market access for Canadian world-class good and services, eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers and boost economic growth for both Canada and India. India represents an important market for Canada, in which there is significant potential for Canadian businesses, particularly in the areas of energy, agriculture, infrastructure and education. The Canada-India CEPA negotiations are in line with the Government of Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan. Canada will continue to support all efforts for the conclusion of the Canada-India CEPA as well as the finalization of the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.

Canada-India Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA)

Canada and India are looking to establish a modern and ambitious FIPA that will promote and protect investors in both countries. A FIPA is a bilateral agreement aimed at protecting and promoting foreign investment through legally binding rights and obligations. FIPAs accomplish their objectives by setting out the respective rights and obligations of the countries that are signatories to the treaty with respect to the treatment of foreign investment.

Canada-India Audio-Visual Coproduction Treaty

Entered into force in July 2014.

Canada-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement

Entered into force in September 2013. It is anticipated that Canada will begin shipping uranium, selling equipment and services, and collaborating on projects in the near future.

Canada-India Social Security Agreement

Signed in November 2012 and expected to come into force on August 1, 2015.

Canada-India Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation

Entered into force in November 2008.

Canada-India Air Transport Agreement

A Canada-India Air Transport Agreement facilitating air travel and cargo between our two countries has been in force since 1982, and has been expanded several times since, most recently in 2012. Those amendments are being applied on an administrative basis. Air transport agreements play an important role in improving “international connectivity” for Canadians. Thanks to the air transport agreement, Air Canada recently announced that a new direct flight will depart from Toronto to Delhi four times a week.

Development Perspectives in India

Despite its increasingly rapid economic growth, India still has the largest concentration of extremely poor people in the world. According to the Government of India, 26.7 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Several regions in India are affected by social unrest, fuelled in part by unequal access to increasing wealth.

In 2012-2013, Canada disbursed $22.08 million to India through multilateral institutions and Canadian organizations such as non-government organizations as well as academic and research institutions. Through people-to-people contacts, often involving the diaspora, these organizations support key priorities for Canada’s engagement in India, such as food security, education, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the protection of human rights, including women’s and children’s rights. Examples are the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (part of the International Development Research Center [IDRC]), a major investment in food security research with several Indian universities, which also strengthens food-processing and sustainable agricultural techniques; basic education and skills training supporting gender equality and women’s participation in the economy (SOPAR); and improvements to education for marginalized children (with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada).

In the area of health, Canada supports the Micronutrient Initiative, the world’s leading organization working to reduce vitamin and mineral deficiencies in vulnerable populations. As part of an agreement with India’s Department of Biotechnology, Grand Challenges Canada is partnering on a number of long-term cooperation initiatives in the fields of global health, early child development, women and children’s health, and mental health. Opportunities exist for Canadian companies to contribute to India’s social and economic development through international financial institutions projects such as those of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

The World Bank Group’s support to India should reach $5 billion a year over the next five years, presenting significant opportunities for Canadian companies. Programs include projects in transportation, energy and agriculture. In addition to its continued support for core infrastructure sectors (e.g., energy, transport and urban services), the Asian Development Bank, with an annual average lending volume of $12.19 billion, is now engaged in innovations in infrastructure finance, improving water resources management, agribusiness infrastructure development and skills development.

Selected Trade Initiatives – Seize the Opportunity!

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food
    • Food and Grocery Forum India, January 2016
    • Nutra India Summit 2016, January 2016
    • Foodpro 2015, August 2015 (Chennai)
    • AAHR International Food & Hospitality Fair, March 2016
  • Oil and Gas
    • The SPE Oil and Gas India Conference and Exhibition (OGIC), November 2015 (Mumbai)
    • Petrotech, January 2016
  • Infrastructure
    • Municipalika, December 2015 (Jaipur)
  • Sustainable Technologies
    • Renewable Energy India Expo, September 2015 (Greater Noida)
    • Asia Clean Energy Forum, June 2015 (Manila)
    • EverythingAboutWater Expo, May 2015 (Mumbai)
  • Information Communications Technology
    • CeBIT INDIA, October 2015 (Bengaluru)
    • CommunicAsia, June 2015 (Singapore)
    • Nasscom India Leadership Forum, February 2016
    • Mobile World Congress, February 2016 (Barcelona)
  • Automotive
    • Auto Expo, February 2016 (New Delhi)
  • Aerospace, Defence & Security
    • AeroIndia (bi-annual), February 2017
    • India Aviation Show, March 2016
    • Defexpo India 2016, February 2016 (New Delhi)

Support Services

Where not otherwise indicated, the information is provided by the Canadian High Commission in India. This document is not intended to provide specific advice and should not be relied on as such. It is intended as an overview only. No action or decision should be taken without detailed independent research and professional advice concerning the specific subject matter of such action or decision. While Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) has made reasonable efforts to ensure that the information contained in this document is accurate, DFATD does not represent or warrant the accurateness, timeliness or completeness of the information contained herein. This document or any part of it may become obsolete at any time. It is the user’s responsibility to verify any information contained herein before relying on such information. DFATD is not liable in any manner whatsoever for any loss or damage caused by or resulting from any inaccuracies, errors or omissions in the information contained in this document. This document is not intended to and does not constitute investment, legal or tax advice. For investment, legal or tax advice, please consult a qualified professional.