Background on Canada and Dubai

An opportunity for a thriving partnership

Dubai – a strong and growing export market

In 2015, the UAE was the largest merchandise export market for Canada in the Middle East and North Africa region.

  • Canadian exports to the UAE reached CAD 2 billion in 2015, a year-on-year increase of 14%, and are expected to continue growing robustly.
  • In Dubai there are over 150 Canadian companies doing business and 1,114 companies registered by Canadian citizens.
  • Passenger and cargo traffic between Canada and the UAE – and Dubai in particular – is growing rapidly.
  • In 2009, Canada and the UAE signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Trade and Investment, recognition of the tremendous potential for growth in commerce between Canada and the UAE. The two countries recently concluded a nuclear cooperation agreement (NCA), which will include supplying Canadian uranium and technology to the UAE.
  • With an aim to re-energise the business relationship and to further promote trade and the strategic partnership between the two countries, the UAE and Canada launched a joint business council in Montreal, Canada in October 2013.
  • Even Star Alliance member Air Canada has acknowledged the Dubai-Canada market is underserved as it began offering flights from Toronto to Dubai in November 2015.

We believe that increased access for Emirates to Canada would have a positive impact on Canada’s trade relationship with the UAE, facilitating the carriage of goods and people between the two countries. While the Canadian government promotes ‘open skies’ agreements, many of its own such agreements have been with countries which are less valuable export markets for Canada.

In countries where ‘open skies’ agreements have been reached, Canada’s trading relationship with these countries is markedly different compared with the UAE and Dubai:

CountryCanadian exports in 2015 (CAD millions)Export rankingTotal trade in 2015 (CAD millions)Total trade ranking
South Korea4,027711,9057
New Zealand475441,15747
Trinidad and Tobago3065564862
Dominican Republic177631,19945
Costa Rica1636566560
El Salvador609016789
Sint Maarten81579168
United Arab Emirates2,025152,16734

As the table demonstrates, the UAE is a significantly larger export market for Canada than most of the other listed countries where these ‘open skies’ agreements exist, with the exception of South Korea and Brazil. This further highlights the potential to significantly boost trade if Emirates flights to Canada were increased.

A new tourism source market for Canada

Canada’s tourism industry is suffering, with inbound traffic from traditional markets showing substantial decreases. According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, international visitors made 16.4 million overnight trips to Canada in 2014, up 2.7% from 2013 but down 16% from 2000. Provincial governments and tourism operators are desperately seeking to open new source markets, including the UAE.

UAE tourists are some of the most sought after in the world, spending on average CAD 10,000 per person, per week when on vacation. The average vacation stay for an Emirati in the USA is one month, though many will stay for up to eight weeks.

This same potential exists for Canada and Emirates has the ability to connect the country with these tourists. However, the opportunity is being lost because of existing flight restrictions. As outlined in the table below, other countries have opened their doors to increased Emirates services and the economic and tourism benefits that follow.

CountryEmirates Weekly Flights (Summer 2016)Flight restrictionsThe maximum number of Emirates weekly flights allowed under existing air services agreements between the UAE and the country in question.
United Kingdom
United States112 
South Africa
New Zealand

Canada's opportunity

The strong commercial, tourism and economic benefits to Canada can only be fully realised by increasing the flight frequency entitlements under the current Air Transport Agreement between Canada and the UAE. Dubai has become a global economic player, providing a wide range of opportunities for Canadian businesses. Strengthening the relationship between Emirates and Canada with increased flights to and from Dubai would further promote trade, investment, tourism and employment, generating substantial economic and social benefits to Canada and its citizens.