By Jack Mintz
Canadians fully understand the deep economic relationship that our nation has with the United States and the gains that we achieve from trade with Europe and Asia. What is underestimated is the importance of the Middle East and Northern Africa, not only in terms of trade and investment, but also their impact on Canada’s crown jewel: the oil and gas sector.
Most Canadian scholarship on the Middle East focuses on hot topics such as Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan, Palestinian-Israeli relations and Iraq. Yet, less attention is paid to our economic relationship with the Middle East, which is of growing importance in recent years.
Two-way trade between Canada and Middle East countries is over $8-billion annually. While this not much more than 1% of our total trade, it has been growing faster than that with most countries, due to the strong growth occurring in many Middle Eastern countries.Certainly, many Canadian businesses have an interest in the Middle East. Nexen is the most important oil and gas producer in Yemen. Brookfield Asset Management’s recent acquisition of Australia’s Multiplex has now given it a construction company in the United Arab Emirates. SNC Lavalin and Bombardier have been involved with several Middle Eastern and Northern African projects requiring their engineering and product know-how.