July 3, 2019 / 7:32 PM / 20 days ago

Canada export agency lifts 'closed' status on Saudi Arabia-related business

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s export credit agency has lifted a “closed” status on Saudi Arabia-related activity after almost a year of frosty relations between the two countries, citing improved business conditions in the Middle Eastern kingdom.

The move by Export Development Canada (EDC) on Tuesday paves the way for the state-owned enterprise to resume support for exporters and investors in Saudi Arabia.

The EDC changed its position on Saudi Arabia to “open on a restricted basis” from “closed,” a status it assigned in 2018.

Saudi Arabia in August suspended new trade and investment with Canada after it urged Riyadh to release arrested civil rights activists, leading to a trade freeze and expulsion of diplomats.

“After monitoring for several months we made the decision that business conditions have improved,” Amy Minsky, a senior advisor at EDC, said on Wednesday. She noted that risk remains and there was not necessarily more business in the Saudi Arabian market.

The EDC said its position on a country is determined among other things, by the Canadian government’s assessment of “political, human rights and corruption risks.”

Saudi government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi Arabia is Canada’s largest Mideast trading partner. Canada imported C$2.6 billion of goods from Saudi Arabia, including mineral fuels and oils.

The EDC supports about 65 Canadian exporters active in Saudi Arabia with an exposure of C$2.2 billion, according to Minsky.

Reporting by Tyler Choi; Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Riyadh; Editing by Richard Chang

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