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Canada-Bhutan relations

Bilateral relations

Canada established formal diplomatic relations with Bhutan in 2003. Canada’s relationship with Bhutan began with significant contributions by Canadian teachers in the 1960s. Father William Mackey, a Canadian Jesuit priest, was invited by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck to contribute to the modernization of Bhutan’s education system. In December 2018, to mark fifteen years of diplomatic relations, Canada and Bhutan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish biennial bilateral consultations.

The Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan has diplomatic relations with only 52 countries (in addition to the European Union); Canada and Japan are the only G7 members on this list. Bhutan became a member of the United Nations in 1971. Official bilateral interaction is coordinated through the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi and the Bhutanese Mission to the United Nations in New York.

Trade relations

While modest, Bhutan's economy has grown in recent years and is based on agriculture, forestry, tourism, and the sale of hydroelectric power to India. There is growing interest for bilateral trade relating to specific opportunities, including in urban infrastructure, renewable energy (including hydropower), and financing and engineering services. Discussions are also ongoing on how Canada could contribute to development of Bhutan’s mining and organic food products industries. On education, a number of new initiatives, including renewed institutional partnerships and expanded student recruitment events, are being introduced to promote stronger education ties.

Related links

Development

Canada continues to provide both bilateral and multilateral assistance to Bhutan through a variety of channels.

  • Canada has supported research through the International Development Research Center in Bhutan since 1984 through 24 activities worth $4.8 million. The Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative, implemented between 2010 and 2015, sought to raise living standards in the province through food security and self-sufficiency.
  • For over four decades, Canada has funded modest development assistance projects in Bhutan through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI).
  • Through the Canadian Climate Fund, Canada has contributed US$1.3 million to the Climate-Resilient Hazelnut Value Chain project to support a range of climate resilience and adaptation features into Mountain Hazelnuts Group’s operations.
  • Canada provides technical assistance to Bhutan through Global Affairs Canada’s Technical Assistance Partnership and the Canadian Trade and Investment Facility for Development (C-TIF), deploying Canadian experts to review Bhutan’s National Health Policy and develop women’s entrepreneurship at the Ser Bhum Brewery.
  • Canada is a major contributor to international organizations active in Bhutan. Canada is the second largest non-regional contributor to the Asian Development Bank, and among the largest donors to the Asian Development Fund for its poorest member countries, including Bhutan.

Operations

Bhutanese refugees of ethnic Nepalese descent have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s. Canada is part of a group of countries taking steps to address this long-standing situation by resettling some of these refugees. In total, Canada has resettled about 6,800 Bhutanese refugees who have been living for nearly two decades in camps run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Partnerships and organizations

To develop effective responses to today’s most pressing global challenges, Canada and Bhutan work closely in multilateral fora, such as: 

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