Canadian dollar whipsaws as row with Saudi Arabia escalates

Posted August 09, 2018

Saudi Arabia is considering other measures to take against Canada, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Wednesday, amid a crisis between the two countries over the fate of a women's rights activist.

Days after Saudi Arabia expelled Canada's ambassador, the country has chose to freeze new trade deals and force Saudi students studying in Canada to leave.

In a statement, the University of British Columbia says it's going to continue to assist students "ordered to cease studies at Canadian universities by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia".

Trudeau - who referred to the matter as "a diplomatic difference of opinion" - also told reporters that Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had held a long conversation with her Saudi counterpart on Tuesday, but gave no details.

The Saudi government said the man's execution was endorsed by King Salman, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Canada's share of Saudi Arabia's FX reserves would likely not be enough by itself to hurt the loonie, said Mark McCormick, North American Head of FX Strategy at TD Securities.

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 UAE.

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Specifically at issue: a tweet from Global Affairs Canada stating it was "gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists", that also called on the Saudi government "to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists".

Saudi Arabia has invested about $6 billion in Canadian businesses since 2006, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Saudi holdings of Canadian dollar reserves are between $10 billion and $25 billion, with the upper end of that estimate representing 10 per cent of daily Canadian dollar volumes, according to estimates from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

It remains unclear how many Saudi patients will be affected by the decision. Riyadh added it's working to transfer existing Saudi patients out of the country.

The dispute looks set to damage what is a modest bilateral trade relationship worth almost $4 billion a year.

Additionally, on Monday it was announced that "training, scholarships and fellowships" for Saudi students in Canada are now being shelved.

The Canadian dollar was down by 0.2% against the United States dollar to 1.3096 at 8:59 a.m. ET.

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