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Saudi Arabia top export destination for Canadian arms after the US in 2022

Light armored vehicles equipped with machine guns and anti-tank cannons made up the majority of sales
The majority of Canada’s 2022 arms exports to Saudi Arabia were light armoured vehicles (AFP/File photo)

Saudi Arabia was Canada's top customer for military goods after the United States in 2022, according to a report by Canada’s Department of Global Affairs.

The kingdom made up a key portion of Canada’s foreign sales, receiving $1.15bn in security goods. Sales to Saudi Arabia accounted for 54 percent of the value of total military exports from Canada to non-US destinations, according to the 31 May report.

Almost all of Canada’s annual military sales to Saudi Arabia - 92 percent - were armoured combat vehicles, with the bulk of shipments coming from a $15bn contract reached in 2014 but approved for export by Canada’s current government, which is led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The majority of the light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) are equipped with machine guns or anti-tank cannons.

The report marks the 11th year in which Saudi Arabia has been Canada's second-largest purchaser of military equipment.

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Arms sales, however, are a small fraction of Canada’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia. In 2021, Canada exported $2.2bn worth of goods to the kingdom and imported $2.4 bn, according to official figures from the Canadian government. Canadian imports consisted almost entirely of oil and petrochemicals, the government said.

The bilateral trade in arms survived Ottawa’s spat with Riyadh, which started when Canada's embassy in the kingdom published a tweet in Arabic urging the immediate release of women's rights activists held by the Saudi government.


In 2018, the Saudi government expelled Canada's ambassador and recalled its own envoy to Ottawa, while freezing all new trade over vigorous calls for the release of activists jailed in the kingdom.

In May of this year the two agreed to restore full diplomatic relations, ending one of the last political fissures Riyadh faced over its human rights record in the years after the killing of Washington Post and Middle East Eye correspondent Jamal Khashoggi.

Canada is the latest country that Saudi Arabia has mended fences with, as the kingdom pivots from muscular foreign policy interventions to adopting a mediator role after failed interventions in conflicts, such as the one in Yemen.

In March, Saudi Arabia agreed to restore ties with Iran in a deal brokered by China. Since then, it has restored bilateral ties with Syria and ramped up a push for peace in Yemen, where it failed to dislodge Iran-backed Houthi rebels despite launching thousands of air strikes on the impoverished country.

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