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International Business Amid Qatar boycott, Canadian firms urged to consider alternative plans

A vendor sits outside his shop at Souq Waqif market in Doha, Qatar, June 6, 2017.

Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters

Canadian companies with operations and clients in Qatar are being urged to consider alternative ways to travel and send goods into the country.

Thanks to shipping restrictions to and from Qatar and major Dubai and Abu Dhabi ports, shipping giant Maersk Line said on Tuesday it has temporarily closed bookings for cargo "from the rest of the world" that transfers ships at Dubai's Jebel Ali port.

Companies that ship goods to Qatar via the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia – in particular food and consumer products – will feel an impact, said Stephen Wilhelm, Export Development Canada (EDC) regional vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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"Canadian firms need to reconfirm how they're getting their goods to Qatar and potentially make alternate plans," Mr. Wilhelm said in an interview.

He said his team has not yet heard of any foreign-exchange, currency access or other financial disruptions.

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More than 7,000 Canadian expatriates live in Qatar. EDC has recently assisted 77 Canadian companies in the Gulf country.

Canada sent $175-million in exports to Qatar in 2016, with $36-million in imports from there. Canadian businesses in Qatar tend to operate in the construction and oil-and-gas industries, often in support or small-contractor roles.

A spokesperson for SNC-Lavalin, which last year got a five-year engineering consultancy and support services contract for a gas-to-liquids complex in Qatar's Ras Laffan Industrial City north of Doha, said the company is "closely monitoring the situation and is in communication with local managers."

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The University of Calgary has a campus in Doha offering nursing programs, and said it had been in contact with all of its Qatar-based employees.

"While this situation is of political and diplomatic concern, there has been no indication that there is any increased security risk to our staff or students," the statement reads.

Laura Dawson with the Canada Institute says Canadian business leaders need to remind Main Street U.S. how important trade with Canada is to their economy
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