Cancelling Saudi arms deal would hurt Canada’s ability to do global business

Justin Trudeau says Canada's ability to conduct business around the world would have been jeopardized if his Liberal government had cancelled a $15-billion arms contract with Saudi Arabia signed by the previous Conservative regime.

NEW YORK — Justin Trudeau says Canada’s ability to conduct business around the world would have been jeopardized if his Liberal government had cancelled a $15-billion arms contract with Saudi Arabia signed by the previous Conservative regime.

The prime minister says other countries and companies around the world need certainty that contracts OK’d by one Canadian government will be honoured by a new government.

If there was a perception that contracts were only good for the life cycle of a particular government, Trudeau says that would make it well-nigh impossible for Canada to conduct business in the world.

The Liberals have faced criticism for refusing to cancel the contract for the sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, given that country’s abysmal human rights record and its military intervention in Yemen.

Earlier this week, the Dutch Parliament voted in favour of an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, following a similar vote by European Union parliamentarians last month.

While Canada won’t renege on the Conservative-era Saudi arms deal, Trudeau says his government will take a more rigorous and transparent approach to foreign arms sales in future.

“The principle (that) … a change of government does not endanger everything that was previously signed is a very important one to respect,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday during a visit to the United Nations.

“It would indeed be just about impossible for Canada to conduct business in the world … if there was a perception that any contract that went beyond the duration of the life cycle of a given government might not be honoured.”

Trudeau did not specify how his government’s approach to such arms sales would differ, other than to say he’s committed to “openness, transparency and rigour around values the world expects.”

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