Algeria-Canada: Towards more dynamic relations

| January 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
Algiers, where Foreign Minister John Baird paid a visit to last year.

Algiers, where Foreign Minister John Baird paid a visit to last year.

Canada recognized Algeria upon independence in 1962, and diplomatic relations were established in 1964. They have been excellent ever since. Approximately 100,000 people of Algerian origin live in Canada, primarily in the Montreal area. Canada is an attractive destination for Algerian students and tourists, more than 9,000 of whom visited Canada in 2012.
In terms of top official visits, former governor-general Michaëlle Jean visited Algeria in 2006 as part of a tour of Africa during which she promoted the partnership between Canada and Algeria in assisting in African development. In 2010, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika visited Canada to take part in the G8 Summit in Muskoka.
Both countries are about to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations. It is a pleasure to note that, throughout this period, regardless of what government is in place in Algiers or in Ottawa, these relations have always been characterized by mutual respect and dialogue.
At the economic level, the numbers are impressive and reflect a growing trend in exchanges. Algeria is one of Canada’s top trading partners in Africa and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Algeria’s market of 37 million inhabitants, along with its energy wealth and growing demands for modern infrastructure have generated interest from governments and companies around the world, including Canada. Algeria’s economy is expected to grow at a healthy pace.
The Algerian government has invested heavily to improve its business environment. My country has been defined by stability and a drive for economic diversification. The Algerian economy has opened significantly in recent years towards a more market-oriented model.
In 2012, Canada’s bilateral trade with Algeria totalled $6.4 billion Cdn. Canadian exports totalled $419.67 million and imports $5.98 billion. Canadian merchandise exports to Algeria were primarily durum wheat, cereals, legumes, machinery, and scientific and precision equipment. Algeria, through the Algerian Interprofessional Wheat Board (Office Algérien Interprofessionnel des céréales-OAIC), is among the major partners of the Canadian Wheat Board (WHB).
In 2012, top Canadian imports from Algeria were oil. In addition, Canada imports dates, wines and virgin olive oil.
The activities of Canadian companies doing business in Algeria range from basic foodstuffs to hydrocarbons; from aeronautics to construction and consulting.
As part of its development, the Algerian government approved a $286-billion, five-year public investment plan in 2010. It aims to boost infrastructure and meet the challenge of diversifying the country’s economy away from oil dependency. The 2010-2014 public program for economic and social development is based on seven major axes: human development, basic infrastructure development, public service improvement, economic development, unemployment control, scientific research and new communication technologies.
Algeria is committed, through this five-year plan, to boosting the industrial sector as well as supporting small- and medium-sized businesses and creating more jobs through the establishment of industrial zones.
Today, more than ever, Algeria and Canada are strengthening their bilateral relations, as was confirmed by the successful visit paid to Algiers in September 2013 by Foreign Minister John Baird.
The discussions focused on several aspects of bilateral co-operation, including regional security, education and prospects for strengthening economic co-operation. The parties expressed satisfaction with the quality of bilateral relations and committed to initiate actions likely to strengthen them, including convening the first meeting of the mechanism of political consultations signed between both countries in January 2011.
After Mr. Baird’s visit, Canada expanded its air agreement with Algeria. In fact, flights from Algeria to Canada will increase from weekly to daily beginning in June 2014.
The expansion of the bilateral air transport agreement will make it more convenient for people to fly between our two countries and provide benefits to Canadian businessmen travelling to Algeria.
As far as trade co-operation is concerned, the Canada-Algeria Business Alliance (CABA) has established a new board of directors and appointed Denis Paradis as chairman of this alliance.
CABA aims at promoting its members’ common interest and developing business partnerships between Canada and Algeria. One of its activities in early 2014 will be an important trade mission to Algeria.
The Algerian market remains open and attractive for Canadian companies. We hope to see more business men and women from Quebec and other provinces (Ontario, Alberta and the Maritimes) joining this mission.

Smail Benamara is ambassador of Algeria and dean of the Arab ambassadors group in Canada. Email  info@embassyalgeria.ca to reach him.

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Smail Benamara is ambassador of Algeria and dean of the Arab ambassadors group in Canada. Email info@embassyalgeria.ca to reach him.

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