Oliver focuses on expanding trade with Israel
July 3, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
HAIFA-TORONTO – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver met in Jerusalem last week to continue a conversation they started in Canada last March.
Their meeting in Jerusalem, Oliver said, “was a very focussed, business-like conversation about the potential to develop a commercial, academic and scientific set of relationships on the energy side. It really started when he was in Ottawa. Prime Minister Netanyahu said how great our diplomatic relationship is and how much he appreciated Canada’s support internationally. [He said] we’re a great friend and we’ve got a lot of personal relationships; so why aren’t we doing more business together? We have trade of $1.6 billion but it’s not nearly what it could or should be.”
Their ensuing discussion about the untapped potential in the energy sectors of both countries prompted Oliver to embark on his recent trade and economic mission to Israel, he said. Canada has had a free trade agreement with Israel for 15 years.
“Israel has made very significant discoveries of gas offshore and oil shale onshore and they’re emerging as a factor in the oil and gas business. Canada is an energy superpower, so we’ve got a lot of experience in science and technology, in service companies and on the regulatory side, capital investments and so on, and we can definitely be helpful.
“Israel is a hotbed of science and technology... There are all sorts of opportunities for us to work together at the government and academic levels and in the private sector.”
In addition, “for Israel, energy security is a critical issue...and this is particularly important given the suspension of the movement of gas from Egypt.”
Oliver said he did not broach the subject of Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood-led government with Netanyahu but the subject did come up.
“They’re watching it very carefully. What they want, of course, is to ensure that the conditions for peace between the two countries remain and the agreements are honoured going forward. They’re hoping that now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in power they’ll be confronted by practical realities and that will help [them] maybe moderate. That’s not by way of prediction; that’s really a hope.”
Oliver’s five-day schedule was packed with meetings with his Israeli counterparts, business leaders and academics. He and Dr. Uzi Landau, Israel’s minister of energy and water resources, signed a new agreement on energy cooperation between Canada and Israel.
“This agreement will advance Canada’s energy interests and contribute to jobs, growth and economic prosperity. The agreement will strengthen ties relating to offshore development, new sources of oil and gas supplies and renewable energy.”
As well, Oliver met with Shalom Simhon, Israel’s minister of industry, trade and labour; visited Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science; held roundtable meetings with members of the Manufacturing Association of Israel, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, the Israel Export Institute and senior executives of the oil and gas sector; and also made time to lay a wreath at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.