Could Canada’s ‘human rights first’ foreign policy cost billions?

None of the Saudi students will remain in Canada during the 1439H summer

The prince "aims for change but is unwilling to be guided by other countries, nor establish quick change that could trigger the risk of conflict inside the kingdom", said Najah al-Otaibi, a senior analyst at the pro-Saudi think tank Arabia Foundation.

The Saudi central bank and state pension funds have instructed their overseas asset managers to dispose of their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings "no matter the cost", according to the report.

Canada plans to seek help from the United Arab Emirates and Britain to defuse an escalating dispute with Saudi Arabia, sources told Reuters news agency on Tuesday, while the United States made clear it would not get involved.

A representative with Canada's ministry of global affairs did not immediately have a comment.

Canada's determination to place human rights at the heart of its foreign policy could cost it billions in trade with an incensed Saudi Arabia - the price of a diplomatic initiative that some observers say could pay off in the long run.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat-buying agency has told grains exporters it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley in its global tenders, European traders said on Tuesday.

Amnesty International has said Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, was recently detained along with Nassima al-Sada, another prominent female activist.

Since then, the Saudis have reportedly stopped accepting grain that originated in Canada and Saudi air flights have been cancelled to and from Toronto.

Although Saudi Education Minister Ahmed Al-Eissa released a statement saying the state will work to make the withdrawals an "easy transfer" to other universities in countries, such as the United States and Britain, that could prove hard for medical trainees.

Directives were issued to the ministry to follow up on the affairs of Saudis in Canada.

"Both sides need to diplomatically solve this together. We can't do it for them; they need to resolve it together", US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.

Last year, Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia were nearly $1.5 billion, while imports from the Middle Eastern country were about $2.6 billion.

"We're going to stand with the values that we know are important to Canadians and Saudi Arabia will take the decisions that they will take", he said, reiterating for business owners that Canada is doing well economically and must continue to remain competitive.

The moves came in retaliation to a Canadian government tweet that said it was "gravely concerned" about the arrests of civil society and women's activists in the Saudi kingdom.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin grains in worldwide tenders, European traders said.

Calgary-based Precision Drilling Corp., which has three drilling rigs in Saudi Arabia, declined to comment Tuesday.

The International Energy Agency and Citigroup have predicted that the USA will become the world's largest exporter of crude and oil products this year, surpassing Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Aramco, the kingdom's state-owned oil company and the world's largest crude producer, shipped 136,321 barrels of oil per day to Canada in June, the last month for which Statistics Canada oil import data is available. General Dynamics Land Systems in London Ontario, signed a $11.4 billion (CAD$15-billion) deal four years ago with the Saudis to provide that country with light-armoured vehicles.

The Kingdom of Bahrain posted a statement on its website affirming its "full solidarity" with Saudi Arabia against "any external interference in its internal affairs or any side's attempt to undermine the Saudi sovereignty".

One well placed source said the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - which stresses the importance of human rights - planned to reach out to the United Arab Emirates.

Another source said Canada would also seek help from Britain. The British government on Tuesday urged the two nations to show restraint.

Tertzakian said the "natural substitute" for Saudi barrels would be crude from the US, which is already the single-largest source of foreign crude in Canada.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday that Canada would not be cowed by Saudi actions.

"Canada will continue to advocate for human rights and for the fearless women and men who push for these fundamental rights around the world", she said in a statement.

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