The ongoing visit of the high-level Swiss delegation visit to Qatar will provide the platform and framework for bilateral business relationships to flourish, says delegation head and Switzerland’s Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin.
“However, it is important to note that Switzerland works bottom-up. It is ultimately the businesses, which decide where to invest and who to trade with,” noted Parmelin, also the head of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times in Doha Wednesday.
With the Qatar National Vision 2030, the country is pursuing the goal of diversifying its economy and expanding its infrastructure, which opens numerous opportunities for Swiss companies, Parmelin said.
“There are several possible fields for an increased co-operation. Swiss companies are traditionally strong in the clean-tech sector, infrastructure sector (such as railways) or the medical sector,” he pointed out.
On his current visit to Qatar, which follows a successful one to Saudi Arabia, Parmelin said, “My visit to Qatar, during which I will be accompanied by a large delegation of leading business representatives, aims to evaluate how Swiss companies can potentially contribute to the implementation of QNV 2030 and take further advantage of the solid foundation of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and Qatar to create win-win situations for our economies.
“For this, I will meet with various ministers, starting with HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani. Then, together with HE the Minister of Finance, Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari, I will also open the financial and economic dialogue between the State Secretariat for International Finance, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Qatari Ministry of Finance.
“Moreover, at the invitation of HE the Minister of Municipality, Abdullah bin Hamad bin Abdullah al-Attiyah my delegation and I will attend the agricultural and horticultural Expo 2023 Doha, during which I will contribute to an event on innovation in the agri-food sector.
Asked whether Switzerland planned to sign new agreements with Qatar, he said ‘No’.
“No new agreements are planned to be signed, as there is already a solid foundation of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and Qatar. The Vision 2030 offers interesting opportunities for Swiss businesses. It’s important to see these changes first-hand, to get a better feel for the country and also to better understand the current developments.”
On the volume of current bilateral trade between Switzerland and Qatar, Parmelin said that in 2022, Qatar was Switzerland’s third most important trading partner in the Middle East, with trade in goods amounting to over $2bn.
“The highlight of the bilateral trade is its volume over the years, which has hovered around the $1bn mark, with 2022 representing a large increase. Given the size of both our countries population, this is an impressive trade statistic,” the senior Swiss minister said.
A Joint Commission on Financial and Economic Areas was established in 2022 to promote and strengthen bilateral relationship between the two countries in the areas of finance and economy for mutual benefit. The first session of the Joint Commission was held in Switzerland. The second session will be held in Doha Thursday.
Parmelin touched upon Switzerland’s renowned tourism capabilities and said, “I can highly recommend Switzerland as a tourist destination. However, Switzerland cannot determine the entry requirements on its own, since a Swiss visa is valid throughout the European “Schengen area”.
Asked whether there are plans (for Qatar Airways) to add more destinations or enhance the number of weekly flights, Parmelin said, “This is something that is regulated by the market and the relevant authorities. Qatar Airways can apply for additional slots at any time.”
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