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This page contains information about Canada’s Global Commerce Strategy (2007-2013). To learn about Canada’s new trade plan, visit Global Markets Action Plan.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman—represents one of the wealthiest country groupings in the world. Blessed with extensive oil and gas reserves, development and investment in the sector is substantial. The GCC countries are seeking to diversify their economic base and reinvest a substantial amount of their surplus capital in massive infrastructure projects, including hospitals, medical centres and educational institutions. Despite the current global economic slowdown and lower oil revenues, GCC governments are determined to draw down their accumulated reserves to maintain the level of these investments in order to sustain their economies. Rising levels of disposable income, government subsidization of basic necessities, and more flexible consumer and business lending practices are creating a new generation of affluent consumers influenced considerably by Western lifestyles and tastes. The GCC is also a major source of foreign investment capital: by 2020, GCC countries are expected to have over US$3.5 trillion in foreign direct investment holdings. Furthermore, the region is being positioned as a leading trading hub serving the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Canadian businesses are well suited to engage in the substantial economic activity under way in the GCC, particularly in the infrastructure, oil and gas, agriculture and health care sectors. Canadian companies that establish commercial credibility in the region will also be in a preferential position to attract the region’s substantial investment resources.

Commercial Relations, 2009

  • Canada’s two-way merchandise trade with GCC countries exceeded $4.8 billion.
  • Canadian merchandise exports to the region reached almost $3.0 billion, while imports reached $1.8 billion.
  • During the past five years, exports to the GCC countries from Canada have more than doubled while imports from the region which had more than doubled during the five years leading up to 2008, declined by 28.4% in 2009.

Market Opportunities

The Government of Canada has identified the GCC as a GCS priority market—based on extensive consultation with government, academic and Canadian business and industry representatives—and has developed a comprehensive Market Plan that identifies the following sectors as offering clear market opportunities well suited to Canadian capabilities and interests in the region:

  • Service Industries and Capital Projects: Rapid population growth, substantial revenues from oil and gas, large allocations by government to public projects, and major real estate developments are contributing to an infrastructure and construction expansion, as well as increasing demand for education and training. Canadian business has played a key role in infrastructure developments worldwide, and a number of leading firms have already established a credible presence in the GCC region. Canadian expertise in education is also well respected.
  • Oil and Gas Equipment and Services: Canadian firms have world-renowned expertise in the oil and gas sector and are well placed to supply the industry’s needs as they upgrade their facilities and processing in the GCC.
  • Health Industries: GCC countries are building and upgrading many health care facilities, the development and management of which match well with Canadian capabilities. The GCC countries also import virtually all of their medical equipment and supplies and are highly dependent on foreign-trained physicians. GCC demand for Canadian expertise in the sector is in part due to the significant influence of GCC decision makers who have returned from studies in Canada. Sub-sectors include health care facilities management, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and institutional devices and supplies.
  • Agriculture, Food and Beverages: The GCC has limited local agricultural production, a growing demand for imported foodstuffs, and a strong re-export market. Canadian agri-food products are looked upon as high-quality, with a distinctive North American image, and represent a substantial percentage (30 percent) of Canada’s overall merchandise exports to the region.

Canada-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Commercial Relations, 2005-2009

Text Alternative: Canada-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Commercial Relations
Canada-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Commercial Relations, 2005-2009
 Canadian Merchandise ExportsCanadian Merchandise ImportsCanadian Direct Investment Abroad (CDIA)Foreign Direct Investment in Canada (FDI)

Government Leadership and Support

The Government of Canada will continue to monitor, assess and influence GCC bilateral trade and investment to advance Canadian interests. Officials will be reviewing trade policy and access issues, including the feasibility of additional Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) negotiations, a potential Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and an evaluation of current bilateral air treaties. Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service will continue to provide information and encourage export-ready Canadian firms to pursue opportunities in the GCC and will continue to communicate business intelligence on GCC partnership and investment opportunities, as well as promote Canadian investment opportunities to GCC investors.

Market Access

Canada has a number of bilateral trade and investment policy instruments in place that are helping to facilitate and support Canadian commercial engagement in the region:


  • Canada-Saudi Arabia Air Transport Agreement


  • Canada-UAE Air Transport Agreement


  • Canada-Kuwait Air Transport Agreement
  • Canada entered into discussions about a FIPA with Kuwait and is exploring possible FIPAs with other GCC countries.


  • Conclusion of FIPA negotiations with Kuwait


  • FIPA concluded with Bahrain
  • Further progress towards signing of FIPA with Kuwait
  • Signed Memorandum of Understanding on Trade Cooperation with Kuwait. 

Unless otherwise stated, all data is for 2009 and expressed in Canadian dollars. All data based on latest available national statistics drawn from a variety of sources, including Statistics Canada, Export Development Canada, Bank of Canada, IMF WEO and UNCTAD.

For further information, visit the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website or contact the Trade Commissioner Service at 1-888-306-9991.


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Fast Facts

  • Population (est.): 37.8 million
  • GDP (est.): $1.1 trillion
  • Main Canadian Exports (millions): Machinery ($636), Cereals ($512.6), Aerospace products ($284), Oil seeds ($149.1), Motor vehicles ($140.3)
  • Main Canadian Imports (millions): Mineral fuels and oils ($1.7 billion), Precious stones and metals ($62.7), Fertilizers ($12.3), Mineral ores ($6.4), Machinery ($6.0)

The Canada Trade Commissioner Service