Interview: Chrystia Freeland

How is the new Canadian government looking to enhance bilateral trade ties with Qatar, in particular Canadian exports to the state?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Our government is open to exploring new trade opportunities with countries around the world. Trade is vital to our economic success in the 21st century: to job creation, to a strong middle class, and to the prosperity of those working hard to join it. Canada’s trading relationship with Qatar is currently quite modest, but we see great opportunities for strengthened bilateral relations.

Qatar has a robust economy and one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world. There are many opportunities for Canadian businesses in this dynamic region. Qatar’s efforts, in line with its National Vision 2030, are creating commercial opportunities in many areas, including power generation, desalination, tourism, telecommunications and information technologies, education, health care and environmental technologies. Canadian companies have world-class expertise in all of these areas, and many more. In addition, Qatar’s ambitious infrastructure development plans provide ample opportunities for Canadian companies. We also see growing opportunities in the areas of agriculture and the agri-food sector including the livestock industry. To further demonstrate Canada’s commitment to this market, Export Development Canada – our government’s export credit agency – is also actively seeking new business opportunities in Qatar for Canadian companies.

With a recently opened embassy in Doha, to what extent is Canada using Qatar as a gateway for Canadian firms to enter the broader GCC region?

FREELAND: Canada is interested in strengthening our relations with all members of the GCC, and certainly Qatar can be a strong partner to help us to achieve this goal. There are already over 8000 Canadians living in Qatar. Their experience and success in Qatar help to further the interests of Canadian businesses seeking to enter or expand in the region. Further, Qatar’s massive investments in transportation and infrastructure, such as the recently completed Hamad International Airport, underscore Qatar’s role as a gateway for Canadian businesses in the region.

Which Canadian sectors do you think might attract investment from Qatari businesses?

FREELAND: Canadians welcome economic investment and we are working very hard to ensure our country remains a great place to invest. Canada represents an excellent value proposition for the Qatar Investment Authority, and other Qatari institutions looking to invest abroad, given the ease of setting up a business in Canada, our strong financial sector, and our highly educated and skilled workforce. Many Canadian companies, like Blackberry, CQ Energy Canada Partnership, and Brookfield, have already shown themselves to be trusted partners of choice for Qatari investments.

What economic sectors offer the greatest opportunity for Canadian investment other than health care and education?

FREELAND: Qatar’s commitment to economic diversification and public investment in health care, education and transportation provide real opportunities for Canadians. Our businesses already have substantial investments in health care and education, and new opportunities are emerging in infrastructure, natural resources and aerospace. Canada has already proven itself a trusted partner in the fields of education and health care through the long standing presence of both the College of the North Atlantic and the University of Calgary. Qatar represents a very strong value proposition for foreign companies to set up operations in the country, with a market-friendly economy and tax incentives for foreign investment.