SOFEX 2014: Canada's debutante ball

It is hard to imagine that when Dwight Eisenhower coined the term military industrial complex he could have foreseen how commercial the complex would become. SOFEX, the Kingdom of Jordan’s 10th biannual Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference, is just that: commercial.

SOFEX is one of the world’s largest arms shows, attended by major arms manufacturers and military brass from around the world, to buy and sell the latest weaponry of war.

This year’s event was kicked off Monday with the Middle East Special Operations Commanders Conference to discuss challenges facing special-operations forces around the world.

And where better to host such an event than in the Middle East/North Africa region, which accounts for “60% of the world’s security and military defense equipment” imports, according to the Association of the US Army?

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to office, Canada had one lone exhibitor at the biannual show. In 2010 six Canadian arms manufacturers sought to sell their wares in Jordan.

After a slight dip to four exhibitors in 2012, Canada is back this year with a vengeance.

Following close on the heels of this government’s controversial $10-billion arms contract with Saudi Arabia, announced in February, Canada’s presence at SOFEX may be something of a debutante’s arrival at the ball.

While Canada has very few major arms manufacturers, a lot of Canadian companies are looking for at least a piece of the action. Canada is now one of the top five countries in terms of the number of companies whose wares will be showcased at SOFEX 2014. With 16 exhibitors, Canada is sending more sales teams to Jordan than Russia and China combined.

The Conservative government’s full-on offensive to sell military hardware to foreign nations using Canada’s diplomatic and political engine may lead to greater sales of Canadian arms and support gear. But it also represents an increasingly cavalier attitude toward human rights (Carl Meyer, “Canada’s diverse drive to sell more weapons abroad,” Embassy, 27 February 2014).

Photo credit: Global Military Review

Tags: Arms industry, Canada, Canadian arms exports, Canadian foreign policy, Canadian military spending, Defence lobby, Human rights, SOFEX, Stephen Harper