Canadian Dollar Whipsawed as Spat With Saudi Arabia Intensifies

There were 327 Saudi students at Mc Gill University last year.					Marie France Coallier  Montreal Gazette

There were 327 Saudi students at Mc Gill University last year. Marie France Coallier Montreal Gazette

The dispute ostensibly arose because of a tweet issued by Canada's Global Affairs Ministry decrying the arrest and detention of two female bloggers and activists, and urging Saudi authorities to immediately free the two women - one of whom was Samar Badawi, sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi - as well as "all peaceful human rights activists".

The spat began last week when Canada's foreign ministry expressed its concern over the arrest of Saudi civil society and women's rights activists.

Saudi Arabia has restricted travel, medical access, and students' scholarships to Canada while using its state-owned media to bash the country as unjust.

Since then, the Saudi kingdom has pursued a scorched-earth policy towards anything related to Canada.

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The Financial Times recently reported that the Saudi central bank and state pension funds had instructed their overseas asset managers to dispose of their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings "no matter the cost".

So far this year, Canada has exported $1.4 billion in merchandise goods to Saudi Arabia and imported $2 billion, according to Statistics Canada data.

Canadian investments in Saudi Arabia were still ongoing and would not be affected by the dispute, he said. The Saudi government on Sunday recalled its ambassador to Ottawa, barred Canada's envoy from returning and placed a ban on new trade, denouncing Canada for statements about people detained on criminal charges.

The escalating trade battle between Canada and Saudi Arabia highlights the need for more pipelines to move oil and natural gas around the northern nation to improve its energy security, according to the Canadian oil industry's largest trade group.

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Since rising to power in 2015, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has courted Western allies by offering to buy billions of dollars worth of arms. Saudi Arabia's airline suspended flights to and from Canada, potentially complicating travel plans for Canada's Muslim population as the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca approaches later in August.

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

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to hold a news conference in Montreal.

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