Javid Hassan, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Thu, 2007-07-05 03:00

RIYADH, 5 July 2007 — Canada will mount four multi-sectoral trade missions to the Kingdom in November as part of its comprehensive strategy to win contracts and go into joint ventures in the multi-billion dollar economic cities planned in different parts of the Kingdom.

“Canadian companies’ interest in doing business in the Kingdom is very high, especially in the economic cities which have huge potential in the areas of higher education, IT, mining, agro-industry and security where we have a lot to offer,” Andreas R. Weichert, Minister Counselor at the Canadian Embassy, told Arab News.

In separate interviews, Andreas and Omar Bahlaiwa, secretary general of the Committee for International Trade (CIT) belonging to the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, spoke on the recent Saudi high-level trade and investment mission that visited Toronto and Vancouver last month.

The CIT and the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry organized the delegation, which included senior executives of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, General Organization for Technical Education and Vocational Training (GOTEVOT), Saudi Aramco and top Saudi businessmen.

During their visit to the two cities the Saudi delegation briefed the Canadian side on the immense trade and investment opportunities that await them in the SR100 billion King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) that will create investment opportunities in higher education, IT, construction, transportation, environmental and other sectors, besides one million jobs. Bahlaiwa said a concrete outcome of the visit was Canada’s decision to issue business visas to Saudi businessmen in less than 24 hours.

Speaking on behalf of the Canadian Embassy, Andreas said four Canadian delegations would be visiting Jeddah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province from Nov. 18 to 22 to identify trade and investment opportunities in the economic cities.

“We are particularly interested in offering green building technology, air conditioning and construction of smart buildings,” Andreas said. The main element of this technology, he explained, was that it recycles waste water, which is cleaned, chilled and re-circulated through ducts to keep the interior cool during summer and warm during winter. In the process, it eliminates atmospheric pollutants like CFCs already banned under the Kyoto Protocol.

Andreas said they are equally interested in the mining sector. Canada’s Alcan Primary Metal Group landed the biggest contract in the history of Maaden on April 30 this year when it signed the SR26.25 billion joint-venture agreement to develop the Kingdom’s huge bauxite resources and to build and operate a “mine-to-metal” industry. Their trade mission would scout for more such opportunities in the economic cities under construction.

An area of interest to the Kingdom is state-of-the-art security technology. Instead of deploying a large number of security personnel to guard sensitive installations, Saudi authorities could achieve the same result by deploying GPS and other high-technology tools to keep the sites under close surveillance.

He said Canadian universities are particularly interested in developing linkages with their Saudi counterparts. They would like to explore opportunities in developing curriculum for the universities that will be coming up in the economic cities.

“Canada will look at all the possibilities. Our interest in the education sector is very high. But we have to set limits on what we can manage. There will be a separate mission on English education at a later stage. But right now we want to focus on higher education.”

The diplomat said the institutes of technology from North and South Alberta are renowned for their high level of education in the oil and gas sector. They would like to explore the possibility of a tie-up in this sector, given the fact that there will be a huge demand for graduates in oil and gas technology, since the Kingdom is expanding its production and refining capacity in the oil sector and also exploiting its gas resources. He said Canada would like to pitch in with its expertise on the educational side.

Another area of interest was the IT sector; especially the Knowledge City scheduled to come up in Madinah. Andreas said Canadian universities would like to develop linkages with educational institutions in this sector, similar to the ones they have with institutions in Dubai and Qatar. They will also encourage Saudi students to pursue higher education in Canada. Currently, 6,000 Saudis are pursuing higher education in that country which represented a tenfold increase in seven years.

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