Emmanuel Kamarianakis Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Bilateral trade between the UAE and Canada has surged over the last decade, but Canadian Consul General Emmanuel Kamarianakis is keen to encourage more.

Trade between the two countries grew from $564 million (Dh2.06 billion) in 2005 to $2.6 billion in 2014, according to UAE figures, a rise of 361 per cent, but Kamarianakis sees further opportunities for Canada in transshipment, services and agricultural products.

“I think people back home in Canada are realising the huge amount of opportunity that’s coming out of a place like Dubai, the UAE,” he said in an interview in his Dubai office. “We’re realising that there’s a lot of Canadian companies that are based here, using this as a foundation. We don’t have a lot of cities in the world that have this many expatriate Canadians and as many Canadian companies — it’s a significant presence.”

That presence comprises around 45,000 expats and more than 150 companies doing business in the UAE (a conservative estimate, Kamarianakis said). But he wants to see more trade, more investment.

“We have gone through, as governments do sometimes, this exercise to identify and allocate key priorities, and we identified the UAE as one of our key priority markets,” Kamarianakis said. “Saudi Arabia is also very important to us, as are other markets in North Africa, but the UAE was allocated priority status for us.”


Explaining the attraction, he said, “If you look at what’s happening in this region, this is an economic bright spot. I mean, there’s so much economic activity and also a very positive, diverse, tolerant, open and transparent climate that it makes it a natural staging point both to do business here and to do business in the region.

“So we recommend, when we speak to our companies back home and when we speak to our government, that the UAE be given a particular profile, a particular priority, because very much within this region it’s the natural hub for doing business.”

But aside from a few notable names — Tim Horton’s, BlackBerry, Beaver Tails and the like — Canadian firms are not especially well known to the UAE public.

“I think what happens sometimes is that we don’t really have the profile, because a lot of our companies may not be as well known,” Kamarianakis said. “A lot of our businesses are B2B {business to business] sometimes. Our brands aren’t necessarily out there, but there is a lot happening, there’s a lot of bilateral trade, a lot of bilateral investment.”

Container ports

He cited the development of the $1 billion ICD Brookfield Place tower in Dubai International Finance Centre, a joint venture between Canada’s Brookfield Properties and the Investment Corporation of Dubai, as an example of Canadian investment in the UAE, and a string of UAE investments in Canada, including three container ports operated by DP World, UAE investment in Alberta petrochemical firm Nova Chemicals.

“Both sides are seeing real votes of confidence in investment,” he said.

The UAE’s growing role as a regional trade hub drew many Canadian companies aiming to do business outside the UAE, or ship goods through it, “A lot of our trade comes through here, and will sometimes end up in another final destination,” he said, noting that this made it difficult to arrive at a firm figure for bilateral trade.

While Canada is known for its massive prairie wheat farms, Canadian Trade Commissioner and Regional Agricultural Counsellor Andrew Maharaj said the largest share of the country’s agricultural exports to the UAE were canola seed and pulses such as lentils.

Canola seed accounts for about half of Canada’s $400 million worth of agricultural exports to the UAE, with pulses another $100 million, much shipped on to Pakistan, South East Asia and as far as China.

“However, we are also a major producer and exporter of high-quality finished products, value-added products,” he said. “I think there’s potential here — and when I say here I mean not just the UAE but the Gulf — for meat, beef in particular, and we have a very clean natural environment, so our lobster, our crab, our salmon are very appreciated all over the world.”


Canada’s industrial sector, with large capacity in aviation and auto parts manufacturing, aligned with UAE needs, and the two countries had synergy in their emphasis on innovation, Kamarianakis said.

“We have really made a focus on the concept of innovation as a key driver of economic growth, as a key driver of productivity,” he said. “And so we are looking at collaborating with the UAE. As an example — I think it’s a great government-to-government collaboration — we had three visits this summer in Canada with an innovation focus from the UAE government. We had a delegation from Abu Dhabi and two from the Dubai system.”

He also points out the presence of Canadian business councils in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and the opening of both a UAE-Canadian Business Council and a UAE consulate general in Toronto as evidence of the importance both countries place on increased trade and investment.

“Things are snowballing,” he said. The corners of his mouth twitched. “That’s a Canadian phrase.”