Canada is to lift a freeze on weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, according to reports by Reuters, as Ottawa has renegotiated a $14bn contract to sell General Dynamics Corp armoured vehicles to Riyadh. This is a move that would secure thousands of jobs at the US firm’s Canadian subsidiary based in London, Ontario.
The original diplomatic dispute dates back to August 2018 when Canada criticised Saudi Arabia over the latter’s human rights record, and in November of that year the Canadian Government froze new permits pending a review, though in most cases this was not retrospective.
According to Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, there have now been “significant improvements” to the contract. He said however, “This is not a blank cheque to anyone who wants to export anything to Saudi Arabia” stating that the new arrangement also allows Canada to cancel or delay permits without penalty if Saudi Arabia is found not to be using the vehicles for their intended purpose; Ottawa would also increase its scrutiny of all proposed weapons sales.
The signing of this agreement will be a welcome boost to the London, Ontario area that has relatively high unemployment. The deal was also announced on the day Canada reported record job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.