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Lattes and logistics drive growth in UAE-Canada trade

Restaurant, Indoors, Screen Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed
Canadian coffee shop chain Tim Hortons now has 250 outlets across the Gulf
  • Bilateral non-oil trade stood at US$2.9bn in first 9 months of 2022
  • Mubadala Capital to acquire logistics platform Canada Cartage
  • Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec invests in DP World

Tim Hortons coffee shops are the most visible symbol of the trade relationship between the UAE and Canada.

The chain has just opened its 250th café in the Gulf – in City Centre Mirdif, Dubai – halfway to its target of 500 outlets in the region.

“This milestone is representative of the UAE’s position as a global destination for trade and investment with an attractive business environment for an increasing number of Canadian companies,” Nour Kechacha, president of the Canada-UAE Business Council, told AGBI

The Tim Hortons brand landed in the Middle East in 2011, with a Dubai outlet operated by franchisee AG Café.

A decade later, the non-oil trade relationship between the UAE and Canada has been transformed. It was valued at more than AED10.6 billion (US$2.9 billion) in the first nine months of 2022, up 14.6 percent on the same period in 2021.

Emirati non-oil exports to Canada amounted to more than AED1.2 billion during the same period, up 9 percent. Emirati imports from Canada amounted to more than AED8.4 billion, an increase of 13 percent (Re-exports make up the remainder).

This year Kechacha expects “increased bilateral engagement” in the lead-up to the Cop28 climate summit, which will be held in Expo City Dubai. 

“It will be an occasion to further explore collaboration opportunities around shared priorities, including ways to reduce emissions from the natural resources sector, to decarbonise and electrify the economy. Innovation around sustainable agriculture, and food and water security will also generate tremendous opportunities for growth,” she said.

“The UAE is among Canada’s top foreign investors, with major assets in the country’s manufacturing, logistics and energy sectors. Agriculture and agri-food, energy and clean technology, life sciences and pharmaceuticals, aerospace, engineering and construction are among the fastest growing sectors that support economic diversification in both countries,” Kechacha added.

Head, Person, Face
Nour Kechacha, president of the Canada-UAE Business Council

The Emirates was the second-largest trading partner of Canada in the GCC in 2021, after Saudi Arabia. UAE-Canada non-oil business amounted to nearly AED12.7 billion that year, up 59.3 percent compared to 2020.

Canadian direct investments in the UAE until the start of 2021 amounted to AED3.6 billion, doubling since 2013, while Emirati investments in Canada totalled AED23.3 billion until the start of 2021.

Last June Canadian fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec announced a $5 billion investment in three of DP World’s UAE assets. Brookfield announced a 60 percent stake acquisition of First Abu Dhabi Bank’s payment business Magnati. The province of Saskatchewan – Canada’s largest agri-food exporter to the UAE – opened a trade office in Dubai, its first in the Mena region. 

In the latest deal, Mubadala Capital, the asset management subsidiary of Mubadala Investment Company, agreed to acquire Canada Cartage, a logistics platform that provides home delivery services to some of Canada’s largest blue-chip companies in the grocery, food retail, and e-commerce sectors.

It is on the back of these growing ties that Dubai Chambers hosted a Canadian food and beverage trade mission last month, with a total of 195 business-matching meetings conducted.

Mohammad Ali Rashed Lootah, president and CEO of Dubai Chambers, said: “F&B is a major, profitable business industry in Dubai and is receiving growing interest among investors. We are bringing together Canadian and Dubai companies to explore and capture the opportunities emerging from this important sector. 

“Growing trade relations with Canada will advance mutual business opportunities in the food and beverage sector as well as support the UAE’s food security ambitions.”

Radha Krishna Panday, ambassador of Canada to the UAE, added: “We have strengthened the business ties between our countries and we are always looking for opportunities to move the relationship forward.”

Under the UAE National Food Security Strategy 2051, the country is developing international partnerships to diversify food sources, enhancing local food production with advanced technologies and adopting legislation and policies to reduce food waste. 

But it is not just F&B that’s driving growth. With Emirates and Etihad Airways operating several flights a week to Canada, the number of Canadian visitors staying in hotels in the UAE reached 170,000 in 2021, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

Canadian firms also played key roles at the delayed Expo 2020 Dubai, which closed after a six-month run last March.

Beyond the Canada Pavilion, Crystal Fountains of Ontario designed and installed 20 water fountains across the Expo site while Canadian technology also lit up the Al Wasl Plaza dome, the heart of Expo, with over 250 projectors and lighting solutions by Saco Technology. 

Ontario company IBI Group assisted in the event transport operations plan, Pliteq supplied a recycled rubber flooring system to the Terra Sustainability Pavilion and official Expo Twitter and LinkedIn content were all managed using British Columbia‑based Hootsuite technology.

Canadian Solar supplied modules for Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai

UAE-Canada: a wide-ranging partnership

Construction ICD Brookfield Place by Brookfield Property Partners ($1 billion); Dubai Hills Estates by EllisDon ($10 billion) 

Renewable energy Canadian Solar was selected to supply more than 800,000 modules for the third phase of the 800mw Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai.

Healthcare The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women and Children in Abu Dhabi began a clinical partnership to bring advanced paediatric care to the UAE. 

Petrochemicals Mubadala Investment Company acquired Calgary-based manufacturer Nova Chemicals, for $2.3 billion 

Oil and gas Taqa North, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi National Energy Corporation, has made significant acquisitions in Canadian energy including Calgary-based Northrock Resources for $2 billion, PrimeWest Energy Trust for $5.3 billion and the Canadian assets of Texas-based Pioneer Natural Resources for $540 million.

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