Qatar and Canada are in talks regarding the establishment of a business forum, which is proposed to be based in Toronto, as part of efforts to enhance bilateral trade and investment relations between the two countries.

Acknowledging that Doha has given a go-ahead for the proposed business forum, Saoud bin Abdullah Zaid al-Mahmoud, Qatar’s ambassador to Canada, told a webinar organised by the Qatar Financial Centre yesterday, “we are working towards that.” Finding that a great potential exists between two countries in enhancing bilateral investments; the envoy said he has already sent a proposal to the Qatar government on the need for establishing a Canada Qatar business forum.

“We are looking to host it in Toronto,” he said, adding the work towards establishing the business forum was going in full steam, but the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down the pace. The 2022 FIFA World Cup and the Qatar National Vision 2030 are the two main themes that offer great promising opportunities for the Canadian companies in Doha, he said.

In 2019, bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and Qatar was valued at $331.7mn. Qatar is Canada’s third-largest commercial partner among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Canada’s top merchandise exports to Qatar in 2019, valued at $266mn, included mineral ores, aircraft and parts, machinery, cereals, and scientific instruments. Canada’s 2019 merchandise imports from Qatar, valued at $65.7mn, included mineral fuels and oils, aluminium, fertilisers, chemical products, and mineral ores.

Stefanie McCollum, Canadian envoy to Qatar, said Canada has been very active across variety of sectors in the Gulf country. “We see considerable opportunities for Canadian firms in agriculture, hydrotec, defence and security, fintech, ICT (information communication and technology, life sciences and oil and gas,” she said, adding Canada has significant expertise in these sectors, which it views as “strategic” to Qatar.

QFC Managing Director (Business Development) Sheikha Alanoud bint Hamad al-Thani said Qatar should be Canada’s preferred destination. Highlighting that Qatar is gateway to business opportunity worth multi-billion dollars, spanning across the Middle East and Central Asia, she said the country is “an economic hub strategically located at the centre of the business world providing an access point to developed and emerging markets.

Sheikha Alanoud said Canadian companies would have potential to target business opportunities across the Middle Eastern countries — Oman, Kuwait, Iran, Turkey and Central Asian countries. There is “a potential to serve a population of 0.5bn and a combined value of $2trn in gross domestic product and $15bn in digital opportunity,” she said.

Highlighting that Qatar has emerged as a strong economy and an influential state in the Middle East region with robust brand recognition; she said the country is one of the most attractive foreign direct investment destination in the Gulf Cooperation Council, attracting $31bn till 2019.