06/15/2016 12:23 EDT | Updated 06/15/2016 12:59 EDT

Canada's Arms Exports To Middle East Now 2nd-Largest After U.S., Report Says

There's a military spending frenzy in the Middle East.

If the federal Liberals are loathe to cancel Canada’s controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia, it may have something do with a trend unearthed this week by Jane’s Defence Weekly.

According to the magazine, Canada has become the world’s second-largest exporter of arms to the Middle East, behind the United States.

The last time Jane’s surveyed arms exports, Canada was in sixth place on Middle East exports, but the country leapfrogged Britain, France, Germany and Russia into second place, with US$2.7 billion in sales in 2015, Jane’s reports.

A Saudi F-15 fighter jet landing at the Khamis Mushayt military airbase, some 880 km from the capital Riyadh, as the Saudi army conducts operations over Yemen, Nov. 16, 2015. (Fayex Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

That comes amid a growing frenzy of military spending by Middle Eastern countries that has made the region the top arms importer and Saudi Arabia the world’s single largest buyer of foreign weapons.

“The combined value of Saudi Arabia and the [United Arab Emirates'] defence imports is more than all of Western Europe’s defence imports combined,” Jane’s senior analyst Ben Moores said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The U.S., Canada, France and the U.K. are the main exporters of defence equipment to the Middle East and beneficiaries of this spending boom.”

“The global defence trade market has never seen an increase as large as the one we saw between 2014 and 2015.”

— Jane's senior analyst Ben Moores

Worldwide, the defense trade reached a record high of US$65 billion in 2015, Jane’s reports. Canada remained the sixth-largest arms exporter, the same rank as in 2015 and up from 10th place in 2013 and 2014.

“The global defence trade market has never seen an increase as large as the one we saw between 2014 and 2015,” Moores said.

The Jane’s report comes amid ongoing controversy about the federal Liberal government’s decision to proceed with a $15-billion defense contract with Saudi Arabia signed by the previous Conservative government in February 2014.

The $15-billion contract for a fleet of armoured vehicles is expected to create 3,000 jobs at General Dynamics Land Systems in southern Ontario. The deal will add at least $1 billion to Canada's arms exports numbers over the next decade.

Though polls show that only one-fifth of Canadians back the arms deal — and roughly half oppose it — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in April that honouring the Saudi arms deal is a matter of principle.

"The principle at play here is that Canada's word needs to mean something in the international community," Trudeau said at the time.

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