SPACE TO GROW

Abu Dhabi 2020 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Gregory Zoughbi, Chairman of Canadian Business Council (CBC), on bilateral links, artificial intelligence, and space exploration prospects.

How does CBC promote trade, investment, and commerce between the UAE and Canada?

CBC promotes the bilateral economic relationship by serving as a hub for the private sector to network, grow relationships, discuss business trends in both countries, and identify opportunities. Our key mechanisms are events, marketing, roundtables and our Community of Interest (COI) programs. CBC events include informative business seminars, the Ambassador's receptions for Canadian business delegations, community galas and socials. More recently, member organizations have turned to CBC for business advice, advocacy, digital marketing across borders, and access to exclusive roundtables with visiting Canadian organizations. For example, we recently hosted a roundtable for a leading Canadian organization to meet with UAE-based experts to discuss healthcare, youth and education. We also significantly expanded our marketing outreach through a combination of improved online presence, social media, newsletters, email lists, and strategic partnerships. For instance, we entered into strategic partnerships with the organizers of leading conferences such as Global Aerospace Summit, Global Space Congress, and Abu Dhabi International Exhibition & Conference (ADIPEC). Such exposure has benefited our corporate members, which include iconic Canadian brands such as Bank of Montreal (BMO), SNC-Lavalin, Bombardier, PAL Aerospace, and Air Canada, and UAE brands with Canadian interests such as UE Medical, Al Amal Business Services, Apparel Group, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) and Concorde Corodex. Our business connections and expertise, coupled with our impeccable reputation in the UAE and Canada, have enabled us to successfully use our mechanisms to promote bilateral trade and investment.

Where do you see the greatest potential for increased trade?

The greatest potential is in technologies and innovations where Canada has long been a world-class leader, given the UAE's continued vision to develop and adopt innovations and digital trends. Potential sectors include aerospace, energy, healthcare, clean technology, space, information technology, and artificial intelligence (AI). For example, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the UAE have recognized AI as fundamental to the fourth industrial revolution. We witness many sectors eager to explore AI and its benefits. Canada has an AI legacy with world-leading hubs in cities such as Montreal and Toronto, which attracted investment from many reputable Silicon Valley organizations such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Other significant areas include healthcare as evident through UE Medical's partnership with Canada's SickKids Hospital, energy as evident through the province of Alberta's decision to expand its trade presence in the UAE and Mubadala's multi-billion dollar investments in the Canadian energy sector, and space as evident through the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Canadian Space Agency and the UAE Space Agency. This increased bilateral relationship and trade growth is a sign of innovative Canadian technologies and capabilities, and it reflects the Canadian private sector confidence in the UAE's legal system, business practices, and stability. We project trade to further increase given such opportunities, common sectors of interest, and suitable business environment.

How will the shared values of both Canada and the UAE serve to deepen the bilateral relationship?

There are evident similarities between the UAE's and Canada's values, for example on tolerance and women empowerment. Canada has long been globally recognized as a leader in tolerance, with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom at its core. This is evident through examples such as its progressive immigration system, acceptance of refugees, protection of indigenous rights and the maintenance of a gender balanced cabinet with 50% women. Tolerance is also one of the UAE's core values, which has a Ministry of Tolerance and administers a National Tolerance Program. With about 200 nationalities that are resident here, the UAE themed 2019 as the Year of Tolerance with key milestones such as a Papal visit and mandating that 50% of Federal National Council (FNC) members be women. The implications of such shared values are strengthened people-to-people relationships. This makes it more attractive for Canadians to feel accepted and call the UAE home, move their families here, and make long term investments such as buying properties. Similarly, Emiratis are able to integrate within the Canadian society to study, train, and work. They then bring back knowledge and contribute towards enriching the UAE and developing its knowledge-based society.