Toronto: Canada hopes to sign an investment promotion and protection agreement with India that would encourage free trade between the two countries later this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

The proposed agreement would contribute to greater investment, trade and expand economic cooperation between the two countries. It would also open up new business opportunities for Canadians, he added. .

Mr. Harper honoured 11 members of the Indo-Canadian community for their outstanding contributions in various fields at a function organised by the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) to commemorate its 29th anniversary.

The Prime Minister said that the government has decided to create a new foreign credential agency to help ensure the overseas credentials of immigrants were recognised by Canadian employers and professional bodies.

The agency would ensure that skills, training and credentials of new immigrants were recognized, and respected by employers and licensing authorities. It "will help new immigrants navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth of credentials," Mr. Harper said.

Many foreign-trained doctors, accountants and other professionals are forced to take low-paying jobs because their credentials are not recognised by Canadian employers and it takes years for certification.