Canada’s Harper under fire from ex-PM over UAE spat

Former PM Jean Chrétien says political row has not been well-managed, calls for quick resolution

Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien

Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire from ex-Canadian premier Jean Chrétien for failing to rein in the ongoing diplomatic feud between Ottawa and the UAE.

Jean Chrétien, who was prime minister of Canada from November 1993 to December 2003, said a quick solution was needed to defuse the row in light of the UAE’s strategic importance.

"I think this problem has not been well managed," Chrétien told Arabian Business on the sideline of a conference in Riyadh.

“I hope they will resolve the difficulty because we need good relations with this part of the world.”

Relations between the oil-rich UAE and Canada have deteriorated rapidly since November, when Canada’s transport agency refused to give Gulf carriers Etihad and Emirates fresh landing rights.

The UAE had been requesting new rights for six years.

The Arab country retaliated with the closure of Camp Mirage, a secret military base located outside Dubai and used to supply Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

The political feud took a new turn in December, when the UAE Embassy announced Canadian citizens would no longer receive free visas. Instead, tourists must now pay up to $1,000 Canadian dollars for visas.

Earlier this month, Canada’s opposition foreign affairs spokesman Bob Rae said Ottawa had been guilty of ‘diplomatic bumbling’ and had put a $2bn bilateral trade relationship at risk.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused the UAE of leveraging the War on Terror to push its own domestic aviation interests.

“That’s just not how you treat allies, and I think tells us you better pick your friends pretty carefully in the future,” Harper said, in reference to the closure of Camp Mirage.

Chrétien said Canada had always maintained good relations with its Gulf allies.

“I never had any problems when I was prime minister with the countries here. I never had, in the ten years I was there, had that type of problem without finding a solution,” he said.


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Posted by: Vicky Maly

Despite the brick-bats flying across both sides engaged in the debate, none of the parties come out squeaky clean. UAE appears to have handled a commercial issue in haste by making it a diplomatic issue between states. It also brings into sharp focus the protectionist and monopolistic practices being deployed in UAE. I do think Canada could have offered some flexibility, although wisdom would dictate that UAE doesn't deserve much of it. Seen from a balanced perspective, we can't chastise Canada on one side and praise UAE on the other. UAE is a young country and needs to be careful about the signals it sends out to the world about its ability to handle international trade issues. As far as I can see, no country has come out in support of UAE regarding the current diplomatic stand off. Don't give much atention to the odd noises made by retired politicians as they are inconsequencial to the issue.

Posted by: Slobodan

Well said.

Posted by: Sax


1) In politics, silence sends a much clearer message than words do. And the silence of the US on this matter is numbing.
2) Canada lost its seat on the UN Security Council not without reason. The UAE played a major role in that (and rightly so)
3) Why would 'wisdom' dictate that the UAE does not deserve canadian 'flexibility' ?? Was it not enough to host Canada for 9 years rent-free? treat their soldiers for free? import $1.4billion worth of goods annually? Is that not enough? Because 'wisdom' actually dictates that you treat your partners in a proper manner, by respecting them and not by offending them.
4) This is not just a commercial issue; it never was. Canada abused the UAE in more ways than one, it basically had it coming.
5) The UAE has developed into a major trade hub in 30 years, Canada can learn a thing or two about that.

Posted by: F Hayek

To protect Air Canada PM Harper has put the potential interests of all Canadians at risk and has damaged the on-going interests of many Canadian businesses as well as tens of thousands of private Canadians. Mr. Harper must reverse his stance on this matter and re-establish good relations with the UAE in the best interests of Canada.

Posted by: Jack

I would just like to comment on how frustrating this process is. I have family (Canadians) who have been trying to get a visa to come to Dubai. They been trying for days to get the visas and have not been able to. The TA is unclear on the process and its taken too long. So they are not coming any more. Let me tell you how much money the UAE will be losing

Hotel: 15K
F&B: 5K
Shopping 20K
Misc: 5K

Total of 45K in lost revenue and an unhappy resident. Thank you Canadian and UAE government...

Posted by: Steppe Up

There is absolutely nothing wrong with how Harper handled this issue with the UAE. It's time somebody stood up for this country against bullies.

Posted by: Philip Stern

Jean Chretien does not publicly engage in the international arena without a rock-solid game plan backed by a worthy objective. Stephen Harper should be worried.

Posted by: dismayed

Allow open competition - yes by all means - but allow it then to Canadian companies who want to freely compete in the UAE. That's where the problem is. The UAE wants to cherry pick its area of competition, but preserve the total protectionism it provides its other (and especially locally owned) industries. The cost of living and quality of service, as well as the quality of product would improve dramatically in the UAE if competition was allowed.

Posted by: Canadian Lving in Dubai

And in response to Steppe Up's comment about referring to the UAE as a Bully, this is hardly the case. This only proves how little people know about politics. Harper is trying so very hard to make a point over something that is purely business related, and in doing so has set Canadian-UAE relations back 10 years. How could this be seen as "standing up for this country"? It's more "embarrassing this country and demonstrating how incapable Harper is of helping Canada on a global perspective."
Canada needs another Chretien, and FAST.

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