Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Saudi arms sale “unprecedented”

Posted on July 22, 2014



Canada’s deal to equip Saudi Arabia with armoured vehicles is even larger than previously thought, according to official data obtained by Project Ploughshares through an Access to Information request (Kenneth Epps, “New facts confirm unprecedented size of Canadian arms deal to Saudi Arabia,” Project Ploughshares, 22 July 2014).

Information gathered from the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) indicates that the two contracts awarded by the CCC to General Dynamics Land Systems Canada to sell military equipment to the Gulf monarchy totaled $14.8-billion.

“These contracts are unprecedented in the history of the CCC, a crown corporation in Ottawa that arranges back-to-back contracts between Canadian suppliers and foreign governments,” says Kenneth Epps, senior program officer at Project Ploughshares. “Each contract dwarfs recent CCC awards for military exports to other Canadian-based contractors.”

Combined, the deals account for the lion’s share of the $15.5 billion in military contracts awarded by the CCC during fiscal year 2013-2014.

In fact, “this latest total is an order of magnitude greater than equivalent annual totals for the majority of years in this century,” said Epps.

The deal is so big that the Gulf kingdom has displaced the United States as the largest annual benefactor of CCC-brokered military export contracts. Canadian military exports to the U.S. shrank to $592.2 million during 2013-14.

“The new contracts change the norm, making Saudi Arabia the alternative major recipient of Canadian arms exports for years to come,” notes Epps.

Based on information provided by the government in February, Epps estimates “that they will span at least 10 years, with average annual shipments worth at least $1-billion. This means that Saudi Arabia is slated to be a major, if not the largest, recipient of Canadian military exports for the next decade or more.”

The CCC hasn’t been neglecting other military clients, however. Back in 2010 the CCC chose a Director of Global Defence Sales to advertise Canadian military exports in untapped markets. Recent export figures point to the success the corporation has obtained, especially in the global South.

The data released to Project Ploughshares indicate that the crown corporation secured contracts with various Canadian companies appraised at $36.2 million for Mexico, $18.8 million for Argentina, $10.9 million for Peru, and $2.3 million for Norway.

Beyond the significant scale of the armoured vehicles deal, the Saudi contracts raise important questions about the efficacy of Canadian export control standards, which are supposed to “closely control” arms exports to human rights violators and regions at risk of armed conflict:


The Saudi government’s abysmal human rights record is well documented. In directing a crown corporation to actively seek out the contracts, the Canadian government has ignored the high risk that Canadian vehicles will become tools of repression. The risk will escalate if Saudi Arabia experiences an “Arab Spring” movement calling for basic rights and freedoms.

Saudi Arabia also boasts the largest military budget in the Middle East, the world’s most militarized region. Huge military expenditures by the Saudi regime provide perhaps the single clearest example of the ‘excessive and destabilizing accumulation of conventional weapons’ warned about by many international agreements to which Canada is a party.

Photo credit: DND