THE estimated 265,000 international students in Canada contribute more than $8 billion to the economy and support 86,000 jobs. Education is also Canada’s largest services export to China, second largest to Saudi Arabia and fourth largest to India.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast said on Monday that deepening educational ties with countries around the world is part of the federal government’s continued trade expansion plans for large, dynamic and fast-growing global markets. He was speaking at the Canadian Bureau for International Education’s annual conference in Vancouver.

Fast said: “Our government is focused on creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians by highlighting the Canadian advantage. One of the clear advantages is our world-class education system, which is a key contributor to jobs, growth and prosperity in every region of our country.

“Our government is committed to building on our education successes in order to further Canada’s advantage. That’s why we’ll continue to showcase Canada as a world-class education destination of choice. Doing so will contribute to jobs and economic growth and help us build the people-to-people ties around the world that are necessary to grow any trading relationship.”

The government is currently developing an international education strategy, which will seek to take advantage of the global demand for higher education. This demand is expected to grow, with numbers of international students increasing from 3.7 million in 2009 to 6.4 million by 2025. Along with the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, Canada is one of the top four destinations of choice for international students.