NEW DELHI: Fear of a 2008-style financial catastrophe is holding back the global recovery but business must be more confident and seek out investment opportunities, Canada's prime minister said Wednesday.
“We can't get over the overhang” of the financial crisis that followed the collapse of US investment powerhouse house Lehman Brothers, the Canadian leader said in a speech inaugurating the Indian World Economic Forum in New Delhi.
Businesses worldwide are refraining from investing because they fear a “catastrophic event” that will “send everything into a tailspin”, said Harper, adding that this “continues to restrain the global recovery”.
He called such fears overblown and urged financial decision-makers to display more confidence in making investments and help repair the global economy.
“Don't worry about today's uncertainty - look at the opportunities over the medium term,” said Harper, noting this was the strategy being pursued by Canada whose growth is the best among leading industrialised nations.
There are signs of rising global trade protectionism like that which hampered recovery from the Great Depression in the 1930s and which could still push the world into a prolonged recession, Harper conceded.
“But it (protectionism) is not an avalanche - it is not yet something to panic about,” Harper told business leaders who are discussing ways to boost India's faltering economic growth.
“Most leaders get it on the big picture” that protectionism will harm rather than help their economies, he said.
He added that a comprehensive deal in the Doha round of world trade talks is out of reach for now and Canada instead is negotiating multilateral and bilateral trade deals with countries such as India.
Canada expects to conclude a free trade pact with India next year.
Harper's speech came a day after the countries clinched an agreement opening the door to Canadian exports of nuclear supplies to the energy-hungry South Asian nation.
The pact ends almost four decades of awkward relations after India used Canadian nuclear technology to stage its first atomic test, and will allow Canadian uranium to be used to power Indian reactors.
Canada is aware it can no longer rely solely on traditional big commercial partners as the United States to be markets for its exports, Harper said.
“Our foreign investment negotiations have come much of the way but we have to be serious about getting them across the finish line,” he said.
He compared the countries to lovers depicted in India's Bollywood movies who must overcome obstacles to get together.
“There is a kind of parallel to Canada and India and the typical Bollywood plot,” he said. “We have to work determinedly to get to the happy ending we want.”