Explainer: Saudi Arabia's diplomatic dispute with Canada

Cheryl Sanders
August 8, 2018

Saudi Arabia immediately suspended new trade agreements with Canada and expelled its ambassador.

In a tweet on Friday, the Canadian Foreign Ministry said it was "gravely concerned" by the arrest of Saudi activist Samar Badawi and other women's rights campaigners, and called for their release.

European traders said Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency, the Saudi Grains Organization (SAGO), has told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin grains in its global purchase tenders.

In an indication that the quarrel may worsen, Jubeir said that the kingdom was still "considering additional measures" against Canada, but did not elaborate.


Canada imported 71,300 barrels of crude a day from Saudi Arabia as of 2014, accounting for about 11 percent of the country's imports, according to Natural Resources Canada.

Some analysts perceive the move as both a power play for the kingdom's young leader and a demonstration put on for the benefit of countries with stronger ties to Saudi Arabia than Canada.

The Financial Times reported Wednesday that Saudi officials have ordered the country's asset managers to sell off their Canadian assets "no matter the cost" - a clear sign the kingdom is willing to accept losses on the sales. It stopped medical treatment of Saudis in Canada and made arrangements to bring home Saudi patients.

The Canadian dollar fell on a report Saudi Arabia plans to unload Canadian stocks, bonds and cash as a diplomatic spat over women's rights activists intensifies. Saudi state airline Saudi said it was suspending flights to and from Toronto.


"I'm concerned about those students, but we still need to stand by our position that we support human rights in the world", Bessma Momani, an expert on Middle East issues and a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, said in an interview on Monday, the Star reports.

A Canadian departmental spokesperson said Global Affairs Canada continues to seek clarity from the Saudi Arabian government on various issues.

The kingdom has suspended educational exchanges with Canada and moved Saudi scholars to other countries. Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia were about $1.12 billion in 2017, or 0.2 percent of the total value of Canadian exports.


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