The Middle East presents a wealth of business opportunities for Alberta companies, as well as potential investment dollars for the province.
This was Cal Dallas’s assessment following an 11-day trip that took the International and Intergovernmental Relations minister to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait.
“I have a real strong sense that the countries that we visited would like to see more of Canada, more of Alberta businesses,” said Dallas, the MLA for Red Deer South.
“There’s a hunger to engage at a higher level than we do today.”
His travels, which extended from Nov. 10 to 21, included meetings with government and energy industry officials.
Dallas described these as being “very productive,” and said he’s optimistic they’ll lead to further dealings.
“A visit by a government official — a minister, a premier, that type of thing — is seen as a very important signal in terms of setting the stage for further things, like business-to-business interaction.”
Dallas thinks there’s good potential for Alberta companies to increase their presence in the Middle East, and also for investors from that region to take advantage of opportunities here.
“We’re seen as a business-friendly place to invest with stability, with strong rule of law and a well-developed regulatory regime.”
Dallas discovered that Alberta is viewed as a place with a successful energy sector, with innovative technologies and progressive practices.
Meetings with the Abu Dabai food control authority also revealed a strong interest in the province’s agricultural industry.
“They really reinforced the importance and also the sense of vulnerability they felt in the region around food security,” he said, adding that Alberta is seen as potentially a bigger supplier of food than it already is, and also a source of technology and research that could help with food production there.
Highlights of Dallas’s trip included participation in the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, one of the largest gatherings of its kind in the world.
That allowed Dallas to meet with a number of high-level conference delegates.
He was also able to take advantage of the fact that the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Regina was in Kuwait during his stay.
That allowed Dallas, Canada’s ambassador to Kuwait and the ship’s captain to host a reception for Kuwait oil company executives and government officials.
“There’s a very strong affinity between Canada and Kuwait, and in particular Alberta,” Dallas pointed out, attributing this to the role companies from here played in resurrecting Kuwait’s energy sector after Iraq’s 1990 invasion.