Alberta will have a permanent presence in the United Arab Emirates starting early next year in an effort to ramp up trade.
The province signed a three-year contract with the Canada-United Arab Emirates Business Council (CUBC), which will be responsible for trade promotion, organizing trade missions and helping Canadian investors navigate opportunities in places including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
It’s a similar model used for establishing the San Francisco trade office, and will cost about $200,000 per year, said Trade Minister Deron Bilous.
He added it will make Alberta the second province after Ontario to have boots on the ground in UAE to build trade partnerships.
Alberta has established relationships with UAE companies already — in 2017, the province exported $257.3 million worth of goods there, making the UAE the sixth-ranked country to receive provincial exports. Canola and wheat accounted for the bulk of that trade.
“Fifty per cent of the UAE investments in Canada are in Alberta,” Bilous said in an interview Monday. “They’re looking at increasing their investments in our province.”
CUBC president and executive director Mustafa Sahin touted Calgary-based companies Taqa North Ltd. and Nova Chemicals Ltd. as examples of how UAE investment has flourished in Alberta.
He said the Alberta office will be up and running in time for the Gulfood Expo in February. The event in Dubai is the world’s largest annual food and beverage trade exhibition.
“My mandate broadly is to help Canada and the UAE grow their relationship,” Sahin said in a Sunday interview.
Bilous visited the UAE in 2017 on a trade mission. Earlier this year, a delegation of senior UAE officials including president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) were in Calgary for the Stampede Investment Forum.
Similarly to Alberta, the UAE has been trying to move away from a solely energy-based economy, Sahin said.
“They’ve gotten to the point where less than 30 per cent of their GDP is industry,” he said, adding tourism, logistics and services have helped to diversify the economy.
Sahin said part of the CUBC mandate will to be ensure a certain number of trade missions every year. “So there will be a persistent Alberta face on the ground there.”
Dubai is a strategic hub, Sahin said.
“From Dubai you can get to Shanghai, London and Johannesburg,” he said. “This also provides another access, indirectly, into some of these markets Canada wants to get into.”
Bilous echoed that benefit — “Dubai is a four-hour flight from one-third of the world’s population. That is significant.”