Canada warms political, economic ties with UAE

Turning point in cooled relations

New agreements and pledges of cooperation between Canada and the UAE could mark a turning point in cooled relations between the two countries.
More than a year after a diplomatic dispute erupted over Canadian airport landing rights, the countries have begun talks on a nuclear cooperation agreement that could lead to Canada being named as the main supplier for four nuclear reactors in the Emirates.
Plans to create a UAE-Canada Business Council are also in the works.
"This is a welcome step forward in boosting exchanges of all types and a sure-fire sign that our bilateral relations are getting even stronger," the state news agency Wam reported John Baird, the Canadian foreign affairs minister, as saying.
A day after the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, lauded the two nations' "strong and excellent" ties, Canadians in the UAE said they welcomed signs of a friendlier future.
"Things have been getting better for a while," said Karl Tabbakh, the chairman of the Canadian Business Council in the capital.
"This is another step in the right direction. This is confirmation of the good relationship we have between the two countries."
David Macadam, the chairman of the Canadian Business Council of Dubai and the Northern Emirates, said: "Anything like this is a good sign."
Relations between the nations suffered when Canada's government refused to grant more landing rights to UAE airlines in late 2010.
In the ensuing spat, the UAE told the Canadian military its lease on Camp Mirage, a logistics base in Dubai used as part of a supply route for troops in Afghanistan, would not be renewed.
At the time Sultan Al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy, said the relationship with Canada had been "destroyed" after "fiery statements" by Canadian officials.
The Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, was quoted by the country's QMI news agency as saying: "That's just not how you treat allies [ending the Camp Mirage lease] and I think it tells us, 'You better pick your friends pretty carefully in the future'."
Early last year the UAE imposed a new charge on Canadians visiting the UAE, requiring them to buy a C$250 (Dh917) non-renewable, 30-day visitor's visa, a three-month visa for C$500, or a multiple-entry, six-month visa for C$1,000. They could not obtain the visa on arrival at UAE airports.
Until then, Canada was one of more than 30 countries whose citizens could travel to the UAE on a free one-month visa.
In 2010, reports quoting an unidentified UAE official said the country had lobbied against Canada's bid for a UN Security Council seat, the first time it had failed to win one.
The UAE is Canada's biggest trade partner in the Middle East, with business between the two estimated at US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) a year.
"Having more trade between the UAE and Canada and using the UAE as a hub, is beneficial for both countries," Sheikh Abdullah said on Tuesday.
He added that UAE investments in Canada totalled about US$10bn. This week, more than 100 Canadian companies have expressed interest in investment opportunities in the UAE.
The Ministry of Economy said it was looking to strengthen ties in the areas of energy, particularly renewable energy, mining and small and medium-sized enterprises.
"Anything that would facilitate the movement of goods and people between the two countries is welcome," Mr Tabbakh said. "I think the relationship from the businesspeople's perspective … has always been very good."
Talks between the two countries have also touched on the conflict in Syria and regional security. The National