Local politican to tour Middle East with prime minister
By: Sara Wilson
| Posted: Thursday, Jan 16, 2014 12:38 pm
Wild Rose MP Blake Richards will join Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his first official visit to Israel on Jan. 20.
Harper announced on Jan. 13 that Richards – who is the chair of the Parliamentary Tourism Caucus - will join the Canadian delegation to the Middle East.
“Obviously, I was surprised to get the phone call,” Richards said. “What the prime minister indicated (as to why I was selected) was that it was the work that I’ve done with the tourism caucus.”
The trip will include the prime minister’s first official visit to the state of Israel. Richards will be tasked with leading discussions involving senior tourism stakeholders.
“(Canada) is always looking to develop various industries when you go on trips like these,” Richards explained. “Trade will lead to tourism (dollars) but obviously the focus will be on tourism.”
Historically, Canada has strong economic ties with Israel, since it came into force in 1997, both nations have benefitted from a free trade agreement, which eliminated tariffs of industrial, agricultural and fishery products. Since its inception, Canada-Israel bilateral goods trade has nearly tripled, from $507 million in 1996, according to government figures.
Richards was appointed chair of the Tourism Caucus on Sept. 23, 2011,which has a mandate to support and promote tourism – a $74-billion sector of Canada’s economy that employs more than 617,000 people across the country.
“We know that tourism is a trillion-dollar global business. It is the world’s fourth largest industry after fuels, chemicals and food. Tourists spend $3 billion a day, or $2 million per minute,” said Richards.
“With the prime minister visiting, there could be no better time for us to build on our relationship with Israel.”
Israel is Canada’s fourth-largest merchandise export market in the Middle East and North Africa.
In 2011, bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and Israel was valued at $1.38 billion. Canada’s exports to Israel - valued at nearly $400 million in 2011 - consist primarily of precious metals and stones, electrical machinery, sulphurs, paper and paper products, and medical instruments.
Canada’s imports from Israel - valued at $982 million in 2011 - consist primarily of pharmaceutical products, electrical machinery, precious metals and stones, machinery and medical instruments.