Pipeline speaks exclusively with Arif Z. Lalani, Canada’s ambassador to the UAE, about the strengthening ties between Canada and the Gulf state.
Pipeline: How do you see the current Canada-UAE trade relationship?
Our relationship is stronger than it has ever been. The UAE has been identified as a priority market in Canada’s “Global Markets Action Plan”. The UAE is Canada’s largest export market in the Middle East, the UAE is amongst the top 10 investors in Canada and bilaterally, trade is up by15 per cent in the past five years (since 2009). Over 40,000 Canadians live and work here and more than 150 Canadian companies have chosen the UAE as their base of operations for the wider MENA region because of this country’s well developed infrastructure, business-friendly environment and extensive regional links.
His Highness Sheikh Abdullah the foreign minister of the UAE made a week-long visit to Canada, with a large trade delegation, in July to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations. Our foreign ministers have visited each other four times in less than a year and our trade minister will visit soon also. Our public safety minister and our development minister have all visited in the last few months. Our ties are historic. I am proud that we have been part of the nation building story of the UAE.
I believe that the UAE and Canada are strategic partners for the future and I want to help build that foundation. That’s why we announced a shared Strategic Agenda in April 2013 in which our governments agreed to cooperate on prosperity, security, development and regional issues. It isreviewed publicly every six months. The last review was in July 2014, and in that review we gave priority to energy issues. Canada and the UAE are natural partners in energy issues. We should strengthen that partnership.
Canadians here care deeply about the UAE. There are two Canadian Business Councils in the UAE: one serving Abu Dhabi and the other serving Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Both have large memberships and play an influential role in promoting two-way trade and investment between our countries.
Pipeline: Could you talk about how the Canadian Embassy in the UAE can facilitate Canadian-UAE trade particularly in the energy sector?
We have a shared experience in this sector; and we have people on the ground who can match interests with capabilities on both sides.
Both Canadians and Emiratis excel in extracting resources in harsh weather climates. As with the UAE, the oil and gas sector is a key element of Canada’s industry portfolio, representing a quarter of all our exports and is our largest industrial FDI sector by far. As one of the top five energy producers in the world, with globally substantial oil and gas reserves, Canadian goods and services capabilities in the sector are not only proven, but have a reputation of long standing quality.
Our strengths in upstream and midstream activities have seen the migration of many Canadian oil and gas technologies to the region over the years meeting the ever present demand for excellence.
Trade Commissioners at the Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General in Dubai, work closely with Canadian companies and partners, such as Canada’s provincial governments, to link Canadian capabilities with local opportunities. They do this through their market intelligence and their extensive network of contacts such as regional government entities, local companies and educational institutions in support of our Shared Strategic Agenda.
In recent years, Canada’s focus has been on process improvements and cost reductions, an aim shared by the UAE.
The resulting technologies that have been proven in North America offer foreign entities the same potential and are ripe for the picking. This is where our relationship can be most prosperous, sharing expertise, knowledge and innovative IP.
The big Canadian names like Husky or Talisman are familiar to most, however many may not be aware that there are roughly 250 Canadian oil and gas EPs active in 95 countries globally. Our quiet, understated yet substantive presence in the oil and gas sector supports our reputation for knowhow, specialised services and enhanced oil recovery. When others are talking about it, you’ll often find a Canadian behind it. Unconventional production or processes such as shale gas, horizontal drilling or fracturing, are actually considered the norm in Canada.
Pipeline: What was the outcome of the recent UAE ministerial visit to Canada?
We were very honoured to have Sheikh Abdullah devote almost an entire week to this visit. He travelled to Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. He met our Prime Minister, five federal ministers including our Foreign Minister accompanying him throughout the trip, three Premiers, provincial ministers, the Mayor of Calgary and Canada’s business elite. The UAE opened a consulate in Toronto, its second in North America and we have decided to renew the Canadian –UAE Business Council’s mandate and mission. We also agreed to launch negotiations towards the conclusion of a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.
We are both committed to exploring new large scale investments in Canada, such as in LNG and related infrastructure and to supporting an ongoing energy dialogue. The full outcomes of the visit were set out in the third iteration of the Canada-UAE Shared Strategic Agenda.
Pipeline: Can you talk more broadly about how you facilitate trade between the Middle East and Canada?
Efforts have been made to lay the foundations for a more trade-friendly environment, one that encourages and supports businesses to engage and find solutions to shared challenges and to capitalise on opportunities.
There is profound value in face time, which is why the government of Canada, through the Trade Commissioner Service, encourages and supports Canadian participation at several trade events in the UAE.
Our team of federal, provincial and municipal partners is ready to assist foreign investors with their business ventures in Canada. We provide advice with respect to site selection, financing and setting up a business anywhere in Canada.
We ensure Canadians are aware that the UAE is a regional hub with excellent logistical links to South Asia, Africa and the wider MENA region, as there is huge potential for many more Canada-UAE business partnerships.
Traditional business ties in the oil and gas energy sector continue to grow with new development in the renewables sector.
Canada is working with multiple IOCs towards the establishment of operational LNG export facilities in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, to meet the growing demand of Asian markets. Those who can capitalise most on the price premium between domestic and international gas prices are those with not only abundant sources, but also with efficient and expert extractive and refining processes. We would love for the UAE to be a part of Canada’s natural gas infrastructure.
Pipeline: How important do you believe ADIPEC is for Canadian companies exhibiting?
ADIPEC has long been regarded as the ideal platform for both local and foreign companies to explore new business opportunities, to build new business relationships and to maintain existing relationships. I strongly encourage Canadian and UAE companies to use the occasion of ADIPEC to build and strengthen their business relationships in the oil and gas sector.
This year’s ADIPEC promises to be the most exciting yet, with the Canada Pavilion jam-packed with new and established Canadian companies keen to grow the region’s capabilities. It is a fantastic platform from which to showcase Canada’s expertise in exploration and drilling, production, pipelines, storage and terminals and Carbon Capture and Storage.
The Canada Pavilion will be a valuable opportunity for national oil companies, international oil companies, oil field service companies, agents, system integrators and distributors to connect with our diverse and proven expertise and the ideal platform for pursuing Business to Business, Government to Government and Government to Business opportunities. In addition to activities on the show floor, our Trade team will be coordinating a Canada programme providing a Breakfast Briefing for Canadian companies and Networking opportunities. Export Development Canada will be hosting a dedicated Business to Business programme where buyers can schedule face time with targeted Canadian clients.
ADIPEC continues to be an extremely valuable exercise for Canadian companies and is viewed as the sister show to the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary, which is organised by the same events team. We encourage companies at GPS who are seeking to expand and export to the Middle East to attend ADIPEC and we are tremendously proud of our continued participation.
Pipeline: Can Canada provide oil and gas producers in the Gulf region with any knowledge sharing?
Canadian technology suppliers regularly prove their excellence in providing the innovative technology that today’s petroleum industry requires.
With the UAE’s aim to raise output to meet growing global demand, the sector retains a strong focus on improving production through enhanced oil recovery (EOR) which is one of Canada strengths along with expertise in areas such as shale oil and gas, fracking, horizontal drilling, accessing tight and depleted formations and the treatment of sour gas, not to mention our long-standing experience of bunkering, terminals and pipelines in the gas sector.
In fact, you could say we know a thing or two about pipelines given that if you laid Canada’s pipelines out end on end they would circle the globe two and a half times!
In addition to harnessing Canada’s quality goods and services, we can bring a wealth of experience in technology innovation, sector regulation, training and professional development, HSE practices and management. Perhaps one area that could be further explored is the sharing of best practices.
This interview first appeared in the October 2014 edition of Pipeline Magazine.