ABU DHABI // The dispute between the UAE and Canada over landing rights could harm trade relations between the two countries, the head of the Canadian Business Council in Dubai has warned.
Shane Philips, a business consultant in Dubai, said that newly instituted visa restrictions could dampen Canadian attendance at trade shows in the Emirates.
His comments follow news of the arrival of a delegation from Alberta that hopes to protect exports from the Canadian province to the Emirates, which are worth about Dh570million a year.
The delegation, which arrived in the capital on Friday and will be here for a week, is led by international and intergovernmental minister Iris Evans, who is a long-term supporter of Emirate's and Etihad Airline's application for landing rights.
Ms Evans, a speaker at the World Future Energy Summit, which opened in the capital yesterday, said the two countries' dispute benefits no one. "Because of common interests in energy and technology, and because so many Canadians have professional pursuits related to the oil and gas or finance and banking industries, there really needs to be a resolution," she said, speaking on the sidelines of the summit.
"I see those efforts as a continuation of what has already been launched and established as a good working relationship between the two countries."
Another Canadian province with close links to the Emirates is Nova Scotia, and 11 international schools in the UAE have adopted the province's curriculum.
Darrell Dexter, the premier of the province, who recently led a trade mission to the UAE, said on Saturday that Nova Scotia was not viewed as "part of the problem" by UAE leaders.
"My hope of course is that that remains the case," he told The Canadian Press.
However, Mr Philips is worried that the dispute will "hardly be a catalyst for further trade".
"It is going to make it challenging because Canadian businessmen can't attend trade shows here without a visa. They won't be able to strike up new relationships as casually as before. It's very disappointing that relations have become so strained."
At stake, wrote Haroon Siddiqui, a columnist at the Toronto Star, is the $1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) in bilateral trade, 95 per cent of which is in Canada's favour.
"The UAE has invested $4.4bn in Canada, and may increase it manyfold, given its $1 trillion sovereign fund," he said.
"The UAE is spending tens of billions on infrastructure projects that Canadian companies are well-suited to bid on. That's why 200 of them have opened offices there."
Mr Siddiqui, who said this dispute may "cost Canada dearly", was told there is a chance that the UAE may recall its ambassador from Ottawa.
* With additional reporting by Erin Conroy