The Financial Times, citing unidentified sources, reported that the Saudi central bank and state pension funds had instructed their overseas asset managers to dispose of their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings “no matter the cost”. Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia were about $1.12 billion in 2017, or 0.2 percent of the total value of Canadian exports.
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday it would be suspending all government-funded scholarships for Saudi students in Canada and would transfer students to other countries, escalating a dispute that started when the Canadian government criticized the Saudi state over human rights.
A representative with Canada’s ministry of global affairs did not immediately have a comment. So far, Canada and Amnesty International are the only global entities to speak out against the arrests and they have called on other states such as the United Kingdom, the USA and France to follow suit.
Some analysts perceive the move as both a power play for the kingdom’s young leader and a demonstration put on for the benefit of countries with stronger ties to Saudi Arabia than Canada.
She said the European Commission wants to understand the allegations against the activists and to ensure they receive a fair trial.
Ms Badawi’s brother was arrested in 2012 for criticism of the regime, and was subjected to 50 lashings in 2015.
Canadian authorities said they are “seriously concerned” about Saudi Arabia’s freeze of new trade between the countries.
The agency cited Saudi Health Attache in the United States of America and Canada Dr Fahd bin Ibrahim al Tamimi.
“Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together”, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said during a press briefing.
A Reuters report, quoting a State Department official, said the U.S. has urged the Saudis to respect due process, in the first comments by Washington since the dispute erupted between Riyadh and Ottawa over the arrest of rights campaigners. Freeland said the embassy in Saudi Arabia is still in place and providing services to Canadians. Freedland urged the Saudi government to “immediately release them”.
With this tweet, the Saudis threatened Canada with similarly harsh rhetoric.
Saudi Arabia first responded by kicking out the Canadian ambassador, recalling its own ambassador home from Canada and freezing new trade deals.
An ousted ambassador, suspended flights, and the recall of thousands of Saudi students in Canada.
Bahrain said it supports the measures by Saudi Arabia in response to statements made by Canada’s foreign affairs minister.
Tanks, armored vehicles and parts and motor vehicles accounted for about 45% of Canada’s 2016 exports to the kingdom, while crude oil and copper ores comprised about 98% of imports, according to a government report.
“This is clearly an attempt to bully countries to tone down their criticism of Saudi Arabia”, James Dorsey, a fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told AFP.
Another source said Canada will be turning to its old ally the United Kingdom for help, which has appealed for calm.
“Saudi Arabia was historically defined by its calculated diplomacy”, Gulf affairs expert Khalil Harb told AFP.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote on Twitter on Thursday that she was “very alarmed” to learn that Ms Badawi had been detained.
On Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir criticised Canada’s calls to free arrested civil society activists as a position built on “misleading” information. “It is a country that has great significance in the world, that is making progress in the area of human rights”, he said.
The diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia that has seen the Middle Eastern nation halt all worldwide trade between the two nations is “troubling”, a Canadian farm group says, noting the dispute comes amidst rising protectionism in a number of key trading markets. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.
The true impact of Saudi Arabia’s flexing of diplomatic muscle is still unclear.