Canada looks for UAE investment
Trade between Canada and the UAE is underdeveloped, but investors in both countries will benefit from better links. That's what delegates to a business seminar at Dubai International Finance organised by the Canadian Embassy. Jayson Myers, CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), the country's largest trade association, said many Canadian firms were simply unaware of the UAE's potential.
"Dubai and the UAE have not had the profile in Canada that they should have," he said in an interview after his presentation. "I think it's probably not top of the mind for a number of companies that are looking for international expansion to think of Dubai as a centre for business or manufacturing, or a centre for distribution generally."
He added that after this, his first visit to the UAE, "I'm going home with a greater appreciation of the opportunities and it's important to be able to communicate that back to the business community in Canada."
At the same time, Canadian companies tend to operate behind the scenes as suppliers for noted brands, with relatively few high-profile brands waving the Canadian flag.
"We don't have the profile you'd expect for the world's 11th largest economy," Myers said.
Bilateral trade between the UAE and Canada was less that C$2 billion in 2014, with C$1.8 billion of that being Canadian exports to the UAE. Myers said the trade figures underplayed the relationship. "It's not so much the exports and the imports as the investment and the production," he said. "If I'm an auto parts maker and I'm looking at entering the Middle East market ... I need to weigh whether its better to produce in Canada and try to export and distribute through Dubai or maybe its better to manufacture at least some of those parts here in Dubai and enter the market that way.
"For Canadian companies what's extremely important is entry into the Iranian market. I see a huge opportunity - aerospace, medical supplies, services, engineering companies, auto.
"One of the Canadian strengths that is never on the radar screen but is a tremendous opportunity is agricultural equipment. Before the sanctions were imposed there were an awful lot of Canadian agricultural equipment manufacturers that were selling into the Iranian market, some of them actually producing in Iran." He added: "My message back to Canadian firms is not to look at the UAe in terms of bilateral trade opportunities or even regional opportunities but as a platform to do business globally."
And he was keen to promote the advantages of investment in Canada, claiming a more stable business environment than the US but with access to the US market. "The fact that Canada has one of the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios means that the federal government and the provincial governments in Canada have a lot of fiscal room for investment in infrastructure, and so next Tuesday in the federal budget there'll be an announcement of C$125 billion of new investment in infrastructure - city transit and health care, schools and major transportation projects. In the short term it's a major investment opportunity - many of them are in the form of publicprivate partnerships."