A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Qatar and Canada is seen as a key factor in bolstering foreign and trade relations of the two countries, Ontario’s minister of economic development, trade and employment said.
Dr Eric Hoskins was in Qatar on a two-day trade mission “to find ways” how to strengthen trade relations of Qatar and Ontario.
“We have started in a position of strength… and I believe there is a lot of room for improvement.”
The minister’s official visit to Qatar was part of a wider mission he led to the region from February 27 to March 3. Aside from Qatar, the mission included stops in the United Arab Emirates and is part of the “Going Global: Ontario’s Trade Strategy,” focused on identifying opportunities for Ontario firms in large infrastructure projects and promotion of the Canadian province as a location for investment.
Hoskins spoke to Gulf Times prior to visiting HE the Minister of Finance Ali Sherif al-Emadi, HE the Minister of Culture, Arts, and Heritage Dr Hamad bin Abdul Aziz al-Kuwari and HE the undersecretary at the Ministry of Economy and Commerce Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater.
He was joined by Canadian ambassador André Dubois where they discussed with Qatar officials mutual economic opportunities and Ontario’s strength as a source of competitive goods and services in the construction technology, engineering, urban planning, culture and tourism, and financial sectors.
Hoskins told Gulf Times that he would suggest to Qatar officials that an MoU be signed between this country and Ontario. “Aside from trade and investments, the MoU will be a key factor that would allow us to explore other avenues for collaboration in the field of healthcare, education, research and development (R&D), and infrastructure development,” he said.
Hoskins stressed that “It may be helpful to have an MoU and get specifics to outline some of those opportunities for collaboration.” Also, he said: “Ontario would be interested in a trade mission from Qatar to Ontario to look at those areas.”
According to Hoskins, there is also a strong involvement by Canadian firms and hospitals based in Ontario that contribute in the development of Qatar’s health sector. He mentioned the nursing programme at the University of Calgary in Doha where future nurses of Qatar receive training and medical education.
He also cited the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), which, he said “has a strong working relationship with Qatar and the Qatari health system. SickKids is affiliated with the University of Toronto and is one of the top two or three pediatrics hospitals in the world, Hoskins said.
In the field of education, Hoskins said an ample percentage from the 6,000-strong Canadian workforce in Qatar are employed at the College of the North Atlantic-Qatar, which was opened in September 2002 through an agreement between Qatar and the College of the North Atlantic in Canada.
Similarly, Hoskins noted that Canada has many world-class engineering companies “that have a strong presence in Qatar in infrastructure development.”
Citing oil as the major product exported to Ontario, Hoskins said he was looking at opportunities to diversify the export of petroleum products from Qatar to Canada.
On investments, the minister said his aim was to discuss measures to bring Qatari businesses to Ontario. “That’s a big agenda but I think the most important thing is that we’re starting from a very positive and trusting relationship. We have the greatest respect for Qatar and its people and its administration, which is why I am looking forward to taking that relationship to the next level.”
Hoskins also emphasised that he aims to help improve Qatar’s standing in the Knowledge-Based Economy Index. “Qatar is making a lot of the right decisions now as well as the right investments that focuses on innovation and in R&D; and that knowledge will improve that ranking further,” Hoskins said, referring to Qatar’s raking the Knowledge-Based Economy Index. Gulf Times.