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 Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos reports on Business and general news for Gulf Times. He is a Kapampangan journalist with a writing career of almost 30 years. His photographs have been published in several books, including a book on the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption launched by former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos. Peter has also taught journalism in two universities.
Injaz Qatar CEO Emad al-Khaja.
Public, private sector support to drive ‘amazing shift’ in Qatar’s entrepreneurship landscape, says Injaz Qatar CEO

On the back of public and private sector support, Qatar’s entrepreneurial and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) landscape is expected to make an “amazing shift” in the next five years, a top official of Injaz Qatar has said. Emad al-Khaja, Injaz Qatar CEO, told Gulf Times that many initiatives have been implemented by different government agencies and ministries in Qatar, as well major private stakeholders that continue to support the country’s entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem. “As Injaz Qatar, we’re also part of the ecosystem, so we're here and happy to help out in this process. As you can see, we're all working towards one mission, which is getting more successful startups up and going. These efforts are all for startups, which have been producing amazing and mind-blowing ideas, especially with comes to tech and artificial intelligence (AI),” al-Khaja explained. On al-Khaja’s forecast for Qatar’s SME and startup sector, he said: “We have ‘the perfect kitchen and we have amazing ingredients and amazing chefs’. Putting all these elements together, as well as all of these stakeholders, creates an amazing ecosystem that both the government and the private sector are investing in. Al-Khaja said top international companies have started investing and supporting Qatar’s SMEs and tech industries, such as ‘ed tech’, fintech, and sports tech, among other sectors. “The way I see it, the ecosystem in Qatar will grow massively. I’d like to look at things positively, so Covid-19 gave us a boost in the right direction, and honestly, look out for the next five years, there will be an amazing shift in the landscape in Qatar’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he stressed. According to al-Khaja, innovation, technology, and fintech have become vital in day-to-day living following the Covid-19 pandemic, which, he said, had put businesses in Qatar “on the right track and in the right direction.” “Everyone has been saying that Covid-19 is a blessing in disguise because the pandemic actually pushed people in the right direction, paving the way for the creation of different types of innovative digital solutions,” al-Khaja added. Injaz Qatar partners together with the local business community, corporate volunteers, and educators to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in the global economy. It is a member of Junior Achievement Worldwide (JA), the world’s largest organisation dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programmes. Injaz Qatar is also part of Injaz Al-Arab, a network of 14 Mena countries working on a common mission to prepare and inspire young Arabs to succeed in a global economy. Founded in 2007, Injaz Qatar has since reached over 100,000 students across 100 schools and universities, thanks to 90 corporate partners and over 2,800 corporate volunteers.

Innovation Cafe founder Ramzan al-Naimi delivering a speech at the conclusion of the four-day hybrid hackathon.
Innovation Cafe concludes Qatar’s 1st ‘E-commerce Hackathon’

Innovative entrepreneurs from Qatar and nine Arab countries have participated in the recently-concluded ‘E-commerce Hackathon’, a first in Qatar organised by Innovation Café. The staging of the four-day hybrid hackathon was aimed at encouraging innovation and crowdsourcing solutions to address, nurture, and launch the latest innovation opportunities in the e-commerce industry. Sponsored by Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), Vodafone, Microsoft, Qatar Development Bank (QDB), and Snoonu, the hackathon gathered innovators, entrepreneurs, and creative minds from Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and Turkey. The participants demonstrated their ideas across eight e-commerce themes: ‘Artificial Intelligence Solutions for E-commerce’, ‘Unique Mobile E-commerce Solutions’, ‘E-commerce Payment Solutions’, ‘Marketing Automation’, ‘Customer Experience’, ‘AR/VR for Product Virtualisation’, ‘Fulfilment Automation & Robotics’, and ‘Last Mile Delivery Technology & Robotics’. Innovation Cafe founder Ramzan al-Naimi said, “It was just an idea, but with passion and partners who believed in making ideas happen, we did do a lot. We were honoured to host the first-ever e-commerce hackathon in the State of Qatar. We received more than 300 applications and after the assessment and ideas evaluation, we shortlisted over 100 applicants from all backgrounds from 10 countries to participate both virtually and in person at Qatar Science & Technology Park. “Our biggest aim of organising this hackathon was to come up with cutting-edge solutions in the e-commerce sector that could become the next billion-dollar Qatari based unicorns. We are grateful to our sponsors, judges, mentors, partners, and, of course, the participants.” The participating teams were evaluated on the basis of market feasibility, contribution to the Qatar National Vision 2030, team skills, innovation, and alignment with the theme. The panel of judges included MBK Holding chairman Sheikh Mansoor bin Khalifa al-Thani, Snoonu co-founder and CEO/CTO Hamad al-Hajri, QDB Angel Investment head Mohamed al-Emadi, QSTP accelerator manager Mohamed Zebian, and Muyasser Taqi-Deen. The top three winning teams were announced on the last day of the hackathon. The winners bagged the opportunity to access up to QR75,000 in support and investment, integration into Snoonu Incubation Programme (SIP), access to investors and partners to pitch their business idea, and access to local and international mentors belonging to the industry's leading corporations. The winners were also rewarded with preferred access to apply into a recently-launched initiative by Microsoft programme and upon securing approval, they could unlock up to $350,000 in value across Microsoft’s cloud stack, technical guidance, 1:1 mentorship, and self-led learning. The best pitch award, presented by Injaz Qatar, was announced where each winning team member won an iPad. Two special winner awards were also presented by Innovation Catalysts Institute. To address today’s real-world challenges in the e-commerce industry, Innovation Café, a Doha-based innovation and design thinking studio, joined forces with strategic partners, including Qatar Financial Centre, MBK Holding, KiwiTech, QMIC, Innovation Catalyst Institute, Beyond Capital,, Bedaya, Doha TechAngels, Fatora, Injaz Qatar, MZAD Qatar, Phaze Venturez, Phaze Ro, Rimads, SkipCash, StartupGrind,, 360 Nautica, Draper Startup House, Oasis, Qatar Scientific Club, and Tasmu Smart Qatar.

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group International. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Innovation vital in growth of US food exports to Qatar, says top LuLu executive

The US is among the leading nations in food innovation, according to Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group International, who noted that LuLu has increased its food imports from the North American country. “The US is a country where a lot of food innovation is happening. America is known a lot for its defence programme and other technology, but food is also one area where they did really well in the last several years. “For example, they are now in a position to export cheese to cheese-producing countries. Also, the US is exporting Medjool dates to Saudi Arabia, so it has a lot of innovation and a lot of capacity to do that,” Dr Althaf recently told Gulf Times on the sidelines of its annual ‘Discover America’ promotion, which concludes in all LuLu hypermarkets today. LuLu Qatar’s imports from the US has gone up substantially, Dr Althaf reiterated, saying the hypermarket chain is expanding and adding more US products to include not only premium brands but also a very decent range of products that customers will enjoy. “Our Discover America event at LuLu is getting bigger every year and we continue to add more brands and other products being offered during this occasion. With every promotion, we are targeting to increase our product range by at least 10% and bring non-conventional products,” Dr Althaf explained. Discover America 2021 was inaugurated by US embassy Doha charge d’affaires Natalie A Baker. She said the annual event “is a wonderful example” of the partnership between Qatar and the US, especially in the fields of trade and investments. “Coming out of the Covi-19 pandemic, I think this is a very important display of the future of our partnership with even more varieties of American products that are available in Qatar through LuLu Hypermarket and in new areas, too. “Discover America is also coming as part of the ‘Year of Culture’ between the United States and Qatar, which is an excellent example of the ways that we work together in the arts, culture, and educational exchanges, as well,” Baker stressed. Baker said, “Also, we just celebrated the fourth annual strategic dialogue, which showcases the different aspects of our partnership; Discover America is part of that overall growth in the bilateral relationship. The strategic dialogue has demonstrated that we have so many areas of mutual interest globally and in the region. “The strategic partnership and dialogue also focused on the economic relationships, so we are expanding our trade and investments in different sectors, not only Qatari investments in the different areas in the US but also US investments in Qatar; we are trying to attract even more businesses here.” Asked about the role of the US in Qatar’s food security strategy, Baker said: “The United States is very proud to play a role in food security here in Qatar. Now, there are more and more products that are being directly distributed from the United States to Qatar. “LuLu, for example, has a distribution centre in New Jersey and we hope that there will be another distribution centre and other partnerships in the United States to provide US products of all varieties, and so we do hope that in those areas trade will only continue to expand.”    

Michael Gunnison, senior counsel at Crowell & Moring Doha.
AmCham, Crowell host seminar on AML/CFT laws in Qatar

US companies operating in Qatar participated in a recently-held seminar, which tackled important topics under the theme ‘Changes in the Qatar and US Compliance Landscape – What Businesses Should Know’. Hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar (AmCham Qatar), the event featured Michael Gunnison, senior counsel at Crowell & Moring Doha, who discussed Qatar’s new anti-money laundering legislation and recent US-Qatar enforcement developments, said AmCham Qatar executive director Lisa Saad. During the seminar, Gunnison examined ‘Law No 20 of 2019 on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing’, and ‘Law No 27 of 2019 on Combating Terrorism’. Gunnison said Law No 20 of 2019 criminalises money laundering and terrorist financing, defines financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs), and establishes the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee. He said the law also empowers specified supervisory authorities to issue AML regulations and oversee regulated sectors. “Both of these laws have general application in Qatar regardless of whether your company is registered in the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), and both of these laws have implementing regulations that add specificity to companies’ legal obligations under both Law No 20 and No 27,” he explained. “A point worth noting is that the law takes a very broad approach to defining money laundering. The Qatar law criminalises any transaction knowingly undertaken with money traceable to a crime,” said Gunnison. He said, “Qatari law is very inclusive and refers to any crime. This could be narcotics, human trafficking, any kind of fraud, bribery, export control violations, and even money from sales of counterfeit goods, just to name a few. “This is important to know when companies develop their own risk-based compliance policies. Just like in the United States, Qatar obligates companies to implement a range of practices in support of their anti-money laundering effort.” Gunnison emphasised that Qatar's new laws and regulations create a good environment to protect the financial and reputational interests of companies, adding that following the QFC guidance “is the best way to ensure compliance with all the applicable regulations.” “Always choose the highest standards of conduct in regard to both Qatar and the United States’ laws, be familiar with your operational and reputational risks, and make sure your training and awareness reflect the current risk environment,” he added. Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event, Gunnison said Qatar is “a mature and growing commercial centre” that has shown its commitment to creating a business environment that does not tolerate money laundering or commercial crime. He added: “And they have been making a concerted effort to enact appropriate legislation and regulations that conform with the world's best practices, as reflected in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.” “This is good news for the commercial sector because it shows that by basing your business here you will not expose your company to financial or reputational risks. That might be the case in a jurisdiction with regulations that are more lax, so this shows that more regulation does not necessarily impede business: It promotes good practices. It is part of what attracts companies to base here.”

Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Qatar Travel Mart 2021 seen attracting major tour operators, travel agents

Qatar’s evolving tourism landscape has been attracting more agents and tour operators wanting to explore new opportunities being offered across different areas in the country, an industry stakeholder participating in Qatar Travel Mart (QTM) 2021 has said. Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of QTM or the Qatar International Exhibition for Travel & Tourism, Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed noted that the current trend “is very positive.” “Hosting such a big event here has prompted major ‘fam trips’ and a lot of people from different markets, such as Italy, the US, and many other countries have come here, which is a very positive indication for Qatar. “All the agents and tour operators that we are meeting are very excited to look at Qatar because there has been a change in the different kinds of businesses happening all around. In Dubai, there are lots of things happening. But in Qatar, with so many opportunities available and new places opening up, everybody is keen to be here,” Syed stressed. According to Syed, “more importantly, FIFA is Qatar.” He explained that the World Cup has been a “big brand” for Qatar. “I’m sure that with the kind of arrangements going on, many people are expecting something phenomenal, which is going to happen in 2022. Adding to that, with Qatar hosting its first-ever Formula One Grand Prix just before the World Cup, that’s like cherry on the cake, so that’s fantastic to have that happening here, as well,” he said. Syed also lauded the statements delivered by Qatar Tourism Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker in his speech during the QTM opening ceremony. Al-Baker pointed out that tourism has “immense potential” to create a real positive impact across all the pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030, creating new jobs, growing GDP, and diversifying Qatar’s economy. “The investments are going on and more people are trying to reach out to different countries. At Tawfeeq Travel, we are investing big time to develop the inbound business. We have changed our brand to ‘Tawfeeq Holidays’ for people coming in from abroad. We are participating with Qatar Tourism in going out to different markets to create more events about Qatar and get more visitors into the country,” he explained. Since quarantine policies are being relaxed, the travel and tourism sector “is getting much better,” said Syed, who also stressed the need for the safe reopening of borders and strict adherence to health and safety regulations when travelling. “Qatar has got lots to offer; I feel that with the current trend going on it will just pick up further. Also, the government is doing a good job to ensure the safety of citizens, residents, and the visitors coming to Qatar,” he said. On Qatar Tourism’s target of attracting 6mn international visitors annually by 2030 and to increase travel and tourism’s GDP contribution to 12%, Syed said these plans would benefit Qatar’s entire economy and will push the development of different sectors, such as retail, F&B, and hospitality, among others.

Kaspersky head of Enterprise Rashed al-Momani.
‘Holistic cybersecurity approach’ key to successful World Cup, says Kaspersky executive

Qatar has recently celebrated the one-year countdown to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Most infrastructure projects have been delivered but government authorities are still working non-stop to assure that Qatar will present the best World Cup experience to the millions of fans expected to arrive in the country next year. “The upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup is not only one of the most anticipated tournaments but also one of the world’s most spectated sporting events in history. Being the host country comes with its fair share of prestige that has catapulted Qatar to the world’s centre stage,” said Kaspersky head of Enterprise Rashed al-Momani, who discussed with Gulf Times a range of topics, such as the government’s preparations to assure the safety of fans, industrial control systems, and cybersecurity, as well as cybercrime, among others. What are the potential cybersecurity threats that organisers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup should look after? The Qatar government has invested in building several stellar football stadiums as part of its bid to host the World Cup that is set to attract millions of visitors from around the world. Hosting an event of this scale involves a lot of logistics, which is only made easier with technology. As the Qatari government continues to heavily invest in everything from infrastructure, stadiums, communication, and logistics for the event, and anything in between, the reliance on technology will only grow. With more and more technology and devices being connected to the Internet, the greater the risk for attacks. It is important for the organisers to implement a holistic cybersecurity approach that protects every aspect of the event from the tickets and website to the critical infrastructure and IoT connected devices to prevent attacks from taking place. One particular cyber threat for consumers is online phishing, where criminals try to lure football fans by offering fake business offers, such as tickets, live streaming, and merchandise related to the games. In the course of two months, from August 15 to October 15, 2021, Kaspersky detected 11,000 fraudulent e-mails that used the World Cup as a trap. What cybersecurity protocols must Qatar put in place to avert these threats? What role does cybersecurity play in ensuring the safety of both fans and the government of Qatar during the staging of the World Cup next year? As the country gears up for this highly-anticipated event, Qatar has placed the 2022 FIFA World Cup cybersecurity at the forefront. It is important for the country to implement a holistic cybersecurity solution that protects the large number of fans visiting for the event. An event with a size and scale of a World Cup will undoubtedly attract the attention of cybercriminals. Cybersecurity will play a major role in ensuring the safety and security of the guests. It is the responsibility of the host country to safeguard its guests. The Qatar government has been making great steps in ensuring that the safety of guests is their first priority. Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) held a summit of security experts from around the world ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in order to explore the types of cyber threats that large sporting events face. The SC issued this cyber framework to set a standard for all those involved in the FIFA World Cup. As part of the framework, cyber-competencies and cyber-capabilities essential to safeguarding critical national services would be defined. Since there will be more digital presence than ever before, there will be additional challenges regarding security and privacy. With the help of many global partners, the Security Committee developed the Qatar Cybersecurity Framework (QCF) to ensure a safe and secure event. Implementing frameworks such as this one plays a key role in working towards Qatar achieving its goal of being a cyber-secure event. Elaborate further on advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks affecting Qatar. Kaspersky researchers have kept a close eye on Qatar for APT and are currently monitoring seven cyber gangs actively targeting the country since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Kaspersky researchers issued 14 threat intelligence reports as a result of investigations associated with these groups that are primarily targeting governmental and diplomatic entities as well as companies in the telecommunications sector. According to our research, Qatar seems to be less targeted when compared to other countries in the Middle East. However, it still remains essential for organisations to have threat intelligence capabilities that provide them with a 360-degree view to focus on how to address these attacks. Kaspersky works closely with local law enforcement agencies to provide them with information that can be used to track down and prosecute the groups responsible for such attacks. How is Qatar progressing in terms of protecting its industrial control systems and making sure that it’s secure? Industrial control system (ICS) security concerns the safeguarding and protection of control systems that are used for monitoring industrial processes. The oil and gas industry is an important part of Qatar’s economy and we’ve seen the country take major steps in order to ensure the protection of its critical infrastructure by prioritising cybersecurity and following the latest global standards. Attacks against industrial organisations always carry the potential to be particularly devastating, both in terms of disruption to production and financial losses. In addition, attacks against industrial enterprises have become more targeted, organised by sophisticated threat actors with extensive resources whose goals may not just be financial gain but also cyberespionage. Therefore, we need specialised solutions and services dedicated to this sector to be able to stay ahead of such threats. Some of the solutions we offer include endpoint protection for industrial hosts, network visibility and threat detection, OT security training, and security assessment to offer organisation a holistic approach to protecting their industrial systems.    

Dignitaries from LuLu and Georgia during a tour of LuLu Hypermarket Abu Sidra
Georgia, Qatar talks seek to support food producers, boost bilateral trade

Discussions are underway between Georgian and Qatari officials on how to support food producers from both countries, as well as ways to increase bilateral trade and strengthen economic relations. Speaking to reporters at LuLu Hypermarket in Abu Sidra Mall Monday, Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Khvtisiashvili, underscored the growing relations between Qatar and Georgia, saying LuLu has been playing a significant role in bringing more Georgian products to the Qatari market. Khvtisiashvili is in Qatar to hold political consultations with several top Qatari officials. His delegation comprises Nikoloz Revazishvili, ambassador of Georgia to Qatar; Zurab Aleksidze, director of Middle East and Africa Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia; and Aleksandre Jishkariani, senior counselor at the Georgian embassy here. “We are discussing steps to increase the bilateral trade between Qatar and Georgia, as well as ways to strengthen our political and economic relations and to support each other in many international fora. “We are also expecting Qatar to increase its investments in Georgia in the fields of energy, logistics, agriculture, and IT, as well as transportation, among others,” the deputy minister stressed. According to Khvtisiashvili, Georgia has increased its exports to Qatar, particularly food products, as well as meats, particularly lamb. Aside from meat and other agricultural products, Georgia is also eyeing to increase its exports of textiles and footwear products, said Khvtisiashvili, who described Qatar as “a good market not just for Georgia but for other countries.” Khvtisiashvili hailed the role played by LuLu in promoting the growth and exposure of Georgian products in the Qatari market, citing the hypermarket chain’s extensive network of stores across Qatar. The deputy minister, along with his accompanying delegation, toured LuLu Hypermarket Abu Sidra on Monday to view the wide range of Georgian food products on display. Khvtisiashvili said Georgia is expecting high-level business and Qatari delegations to visit Georgia to discuss and explore investment and trade opportunities between both countries. Direct flights and Georgia’s visa-free regime are also expected to play a role in increasing the number of tourists from Qatar to Georgia now that travel restrictions are slowly being relaxed and borders are opening, he said. “Prior to the pandemic, the number of tourists from Qatar to Georgia and vice versa has increased. Many Georgians are expected to visit Qatar to celebrate and watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Similarly, we expect more Qataris to visit Georgia for business and leisure in the future,” the deputy minister emphasised.

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, joins Georgiau2019s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Khvtisiashvili, and Nikoloz Revazishvili, ambassador of Georgia to the State of Qatar, as well as other dignitaries from LuLu and Georgia during the deputy minister's visit to LuLu Hypermarket Abu Sidra Monday
Georgia expresses support for Qatar’s food security efforts, says LuLu top exec

Georgia, which has increased its food exports to Qatar, is looking to further support the State’s food security strategy, Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, has said. Althaf said food security was among the several pressing topics he discussed with Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Khvtisiashvili, during his visit at LuLu Hypermarket in Abu Sidra Mall Monday. “We were honoured to receive the deputy minister; he is a very high-level dignitary and even during his hectic diplomatic activity, he spent a lot of time at LuLu Hypermarket Abu Sidra, which shows Georgia’s interest in doing business with Qatar and with LuLu,” Althaf told reporters on the sidelines of the visit. Aside from food security, Althaf said his meeting with the deputy minister also focused on how to increase Georgia’s food exports to the region and Qatar, such as different types of Georgian meats, particularly lamb; they also discussed ways to collaborate in promoting Georgia and Qatar. “There are two aspects to food security. One is we become self-reliant on production, while the second is that we keep our supply chain level open and diversify it. One leg of the food security is done quite successfully in Qatar, which is to encourage local production. “The second leg is to diversify the sources because as we witnessed in the past two years, a lot of countries worldwide had logistics problems and environmental challenges, as well as extreme weather conditions and disruptions, but you don’t find a shortage in Qatar in spite of all these problems in previous years. That is because we also have this sourcing policy for good, quality products from all over the world,” Althaf explained. Althaf also said the deputy minister was impressed with the economic development achieved by Qatar and the food security measures the State has implemented. Khvtisiashvili said LuLu has played a significant role in increasing Georgia’s exports to Qatar by bringing in more Georgian food and agricultural products to the country through its extensive chain of hypermarkets. “It is a prestige to bring Georgian products to LuLu stores because of the great partnership we have forged with them. Our collaboration with this hypermarket chain has been a big advantage for us. “We are planning to increase the quantity and the range of our products. We are inviting LuLu to visit Georgia to explore other products that could be exported to Qatar. Beyond meats and juices, there are also some other products to be discovered in our country, such as agricultural products that we would like to sell here,” he said.

US embassy Doha charge du2019affaires Natalie A Baker and Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, during the launch of LuLu Hypermarket Qatar's u2018Discover Americau2019 promotion held on Sunday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Promo underlines push for more US brands, food products in Qatar

The US is seeking to bring in more of its food products, including other high-quality American brands, to Qatar, according to US embassy Doha charge d’affaires Natalie A Baker, who inaugurated LuLu Hypermarket Qatar’s annual ‘Discover America’ promotion held on Sunday at Abu Sidra Mall. In a speech, Baker said: “Discover America is a real treat for all Americans living in Qatar, as well as other residents and Qataris who have studied, visited, and lived in the United States. The wide variety of products featured in the 2021 Discover America event here today highlights our shared goals of bringing more US brands and foods to Qatar. “I commend you for the increased selection of healthy and light options that LuLu carries, given the rising health consciousness in Qatar and the region. From more fruits and vegetables to organic and processed foods, it is wonderful to see the diversity of American products from every corner of the United States.” She added: “Food is the most fundamental celebration of any culture, so it is very fitting that this event comes as we are just about to start the grand finale of the 2021 Qatar-USA Year of Culture. I’d like to invite everyone to participate in the 2021 Qatar-USA Festival, which will be held from November 24th through the 29th.” On the sidelines of the event, Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, spoke on LuLu’s contributions to sustainable development, citing Abu Sidra Mall as an environment-friendly establishment. He said, “This building where we are celebrating the 2021 Discover America event is designed with a lot of vision, and this is the least environmentally-impacted construction in retail here now. A lot of engineering innovations have happened here. Also, this store is regarded as one of the largest but for us, it is one of the best-in-class.” “Over the last 10 years, our business, the volume, and the quality of our products witnessed substantial growth. Like many of you know, we already have our export distribution centre in New Jersey. We are now expanding our footprint in the US; we are opening our Quality Control Office in Los Angeles very soon. We are moving into another facility in the nearby states.” He added: “The US is a very large agrarian economy; it is much more diverse and has a very heterogeneous soil mix. Unlike other countries that we deal with, the US is not a monocrop country – we can get anything out of the US now. The country offers an enormous number of products and we hope to bring a lot of that to Qatar, which is very good for the food security of the country.”    

US embassy Doha charge du2019affaires Natalie A Baker leads the ribbon-cutting ceremony at LuLu Hypermarket, Abu Sidra Mall. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
LuLu Hypermarket Qatar launches ‘Discover America 2021’

LuLu Hypermarket kicked off its annual ‘Discover America’ promotion in all LuLu hypermarkets on Sunday. Organised in association with the Embassy of the United States in Qatar and American Chamber of Commerce Qatar (AmCham), US embassy Doha charge d’affaires Natalie A Baker inaugurated the festival at LuLu Hypermarket, Abu Sidra Mall. The inaugural ceremony was also attended by distinguished guests from the US Commercial Service, AmCham, USDA Office of Agricultural Affairs, American Women’s Association, and senior officials, including Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, and many dignitaries from various American and leading organisations operating in Qatar. More than 4,000 American products, including 100 new product lines are being featured in LuLu’s ‘Discover America’ promotion, which is available to shoppers from November 21 to 27 across all LuLu stores in Qatar. The bounty of US-made selections and attractive promotional offers on all American food and non-food categories, which broadly include meat, chilled and dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, grocery lines, beauty lines, roastery, and deli hot and cold, showcases LuLu’s longstanding business relations with America. The popular ‘LuLu Kitchens’ will fill the aisles with specialty hot foods fragrant with signature American flavours inspired by classic culinary items. Discover America is the best way to explore the versatility of products that represent new tastes, which the US has introduced to the world. Despite challenging circumstances, LuLu’s trade with the US has touched new heights in the previous financial year with the addition of new lines. Most importantly, LuLu has put emphasis on showcasing the biggest range of ‘free from’ worry food products, such as organic, gluten-free, lactose-free, dairy-free, vegan, and many other healthy options that were imported from the US. LuLu Hypermarket has been hosting the festival for the past 10 years, garnering an overwhelming response from its customers. LuLu hypermarkets treasure the longstanding business relations with the US for more than a decade. And by organising the festival, LuLu aims to further promote US produce and food products through its stores in the region. Besides its export distribution centre in the US, LuLu Group has set up many years back a comprehensive and well-established international network of sourcing offices and export distribution centres across the world, including Brazil, the UK, Spain, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Kenya, Benin, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Vietnam, among others. These export distribution centres regularly cater to the requirements of all LuLu outlets across different geographical landscapes. LuLu Group is always making sustained efforts through an organised logistics network to make global products available at the best rates for shoppers, which makes LuLu distinct in the retail sector.    

From left: Gulf Times Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abdulhameed al-Mudahka joins Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas and Italian National Tourism Board president Giorgio Palmucci at the Italian pavilion during the launch of Qatar Travel Mart 2021 yesterday. Right: The Italian pavilion at Qatar Travel Mart 2021, which will run until November 18 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). PICTURES: Thajudheen
Italy open for business, awaits influx of more Qatari tourists, says envoy

  As more countries are opening their borders and relaxing travel restrictions, Italy is ready for the influx of Qatari tourists, as well as other visitors from across the globe, Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas has said. Italy’s top diplomat here made the statement on the sidelines of Qatar Travel Mart 2021, which opened Tuesay and will run until November 18 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). “This event has come at the right time and in the wake of the impact of Covid-19 on the global travel and tourism industry. Countries, including Italy, are reopening for tourism but with the necessary precautions aimed at maintaining the health and safety of all visitors,” Prunas told Gulf Times. Citing figures from Unesco, Prunas said Italy is a leader in the tourism industry, with over 70% of world heritage sites is found across different parts of the country. “Italy is one of the countries that can give the largest possible diversity in terms of tourism destination,” he stressed. The Italian pavilion at Qatar Travel Mart 2021, which will run until November 18 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). PICTURE: Thajudheen “For us, it is a natural choice to be present at Qatar Travel Mart 2021 and having one of the largest pavilions on the exhibition hall. We do look at Qatar as a very important market because we know that Qataris love Italy. We are encouraging not only Qataris but everyone to come to Italy because we are open for business again,” he stressed. Giorgio Palmucci, the president of ENIT (Italian National Tourism Board), also said Italy is ready to host a new wave of tourists, reiterating the ambassador’s earlier statement that Qatar is an “important market for us,” citing ongoing events and activities, particularly the 2022 FIFA World Cup. “Today, I think that it’s very important to present our country to Qatar, and at the same time we know there are many Italian tourists ready to come and visit Qatar, so it’s very important to work with the country’s tourism board because we think that the partnership between our countries is one of the best, and similar to Qatar Airways, which I think is the best company in the world, so it is important for us to create and improve our relationship with this country,” he stressed. “While it is true that it is important to bring foreign tourists to Italy, but it is, likewise, important to help Italian tourists discover the world, so they are ready to travel and come to Qatar,” he said, adding that Doha is seen as a hub for Italian tourists travelling through Qatar to other parts of the world. Conversely, Palmucci said the Italian Ministry of Tourism is working to make it easier for Italians to travel to Qatar, adding that more tourists from Italy are expected to visit Qatar from December.

Qatar Museums CEO Ahmad Musa al-Namla is delivering a speech at Qatar Travel Mart at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC) Tuesday. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Qatar is making headway in cultural tourism, says Qatar Museums CEO

  Qatar has made significant progress in placing the country on the global tourism map through cultural tourism, Qatar Museums CEO Ahmad Musa al-Namla said during the inaugural Qatar Travel Mart, which will run until November 18 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). Speaking at the event, al-Namla said Qatar Museum is recognised as a gateway to Qatar’s cultural tourism and as a distinguished institution for art and culture, dedicated to providing authentic cultural experiences through an expanding network of museums, heritage sites, festivals, public arts, and programmes. “Our purpose is to be a culture instigator, inspired by ground ambition – one that we will deliver together as a group of museums and sights to help fulfil the cultural goals of our Qatar National Vision 2030,” he said. Al-Namla said growth in global tourism has a direct impact on economic growth, greater disposable income, and the latest technologies that enable tourists to enjoy low prices and “much affordable” travelling experience. “These demands are increasingly accompanied by an expectation for a fuller cultural experience. Today, tourism focus has moved beyond the need for sun, sea, and sand. It moved more towards a desire to experience art, culture, and history by visiting such places. “In just two or three generations, the opportunity to experience the richness of a global culture has gone from being a privilege to a form of mass consumption and a possibility for millions more,” he explained. Al-Namla said, “Undoubtedly, museums are essential to the success and development of cultural tourism. Museums are considered places with effective and lasting partnerships between tourists and their hosting countries. “As a traditional custodian of cultural identity, museums can act as a bonafide motivator in establishing relations between tourists and culture, while opening a new horizon for visitors.” In Qatar, al-Namla said tourists will be able to experience the country’s history and its Islamic heritage through the Museum of Islamic Art, which demonstrates 1,400 years of Islamic history. Similarly, the interactive exhibits in the Qatar National Museum allow visitors to walk through the history of Qatar, he said. “In addition, the first museum of its kind in the region, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, offers Arab perspective on modern and contemporary arts. Mathaf’s growing collection presents a priceless resource to help connect our rich cultural heritage to the promise of contemporary art movements,” he said. Al-Namla also announced that the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, the “world's most sophisticated” museum dedicated to sport, “is scheduled to open soon to the world.” He said this museum will offer a vast and amazing experience. It is also eventful with interactive and unforgettable exhibits, inspiring objects, and unique activity areas. The museum is designed to educate and entertain, delivering state-of-the-art sports from around the world and inspiring visitors to get involved in sport every day, he noted. Al-Namla added: “Likewise, Qatar's pearling industry can be explored at Zubara, once the largest pearl harvesting and trading centre in Qatar and today, a Unesco World Heritage site. “The historic Zubara Fort has been transformed into a museum displaying diverse exhibits and artworks. Visitors can explore partial excavation dating to the 17th century with the remains of palaces, courtyard, houses, mosques, defensive walls, streets, a canal, and symmetries.”

Qatar Tourism chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker delivers a keynote speech during the event. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Al-Baker cites tourism’s role in Qatar’s GDP growth, economic diversification

  Qatar Tourism chairman HE Akbar al-Baker, who is also Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, has underscored the role of tourism in realising the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030. Keynoting Qatar Travel Mart 2021 Tuesday at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), al-Baker stressed that tourism and travel are a “crucial component” of Qatar’s future and its economy. “Qatar National Vision 2030 sets out a roadmap for us to become an advanced society capable of maintaining a high standard of living for our people. The national vision encapsulates the four pillars of human, social, economic, and environmental development. Qatar Tourism chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker gestures during a tour of the exhibition hall of Qatar Travel Mart Tuesday at the DECC while HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani looks on. PICTURE: Thajudheen “Tourism has immense potential to create a real positive impact across all these pillars, creating new jobs, growing GDP, and diversifying our economy,” said al-Baker, who participated in the event’s ribbon-cutting ceremony led by HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani. Al-Baker pointed out that Qatar Travel Mart is the “first exhibition of its kind” in Qatar catering specifically to the travel and tourism industry. “We are proud to invite the world back after such unprecedented times. We are thankful that our pandemic strategy and successful vaccination drive has allowed us to bring back events such as this,” he said. He also reiterated Qatar Tourism’s earlier announcement that by 2030 it aims to attract over 6mn international visitors annually and increase travel and tourism’s GDP contribution to 12%, as well as to double employment in the sector. “Our ambition is bold. But we know we are equipped with so many unique assets and experiences, and we have the foundations in place to achieve it. From spectacular city skylines to our burgeoning arts and culinary scene, and stunning desert landscapes, we have all the ingredients to become a world-leading tourism destination,” al-Baker stressed. He also underlined the “tremendous progress” achieved over recent years “even through challenging times,” saying Qatar Airways is now the “largest long haul international airline in the world,” and cited Hamad International Airport as “the world’s best airport.” “While borders were closed, we worked round the clock to prepare all our attractions so they can be experienced in comfort and safety…our ‘Qatar Clean’ programme – a key initiative by Qatar Tourism and the Ministry of Public Health – has been ensuring world-leading health and hygiene standards by certifying hotels and key tourism locations,” he emphasised. According to al-Baker, Qatar is under the international spotlight as the country approaches the one-year countdown to the much-awaited 2022 FIFA World Cup this Sunday. “We want to show the world the hidden gem that is Qatar. We want to welcome everyone to come and ‘Experience a World Beyond’…none of this progress would be possible without the cooperation of public and private stakeholders across the country. “I must therefore thank them for their continued support, and His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani and HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, who share our aim to develop Qatar as a leading destination for tourism,” al-Baker added. Ends

The exhibition was opened by HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Qassim Al Abdullah Al Thani, in the presence of HE Qatar Airways Group CEO and Chairman of Qatar Tourism Akbar Al Baker. PICTURES: Thajudheen
Qatar Travel Mart kicks off; 150 global firms from 34 countries participate

The staging of Qatar Travel Mart (QTM) 2021, which was inaugurated Tuesday by HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani along with other dignitaries, is seen as a resurgence of Qatar’s tourism sector post-Covid-19, attracting 150 exhibitors from 34 countries. Set to run until November 18 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), the event represents a boost for Qatar Tourism, a key priority for the country’s economy, and the revival of the sector after the pandemic in the build-up of international interest in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, said Rawad Sleem, co-founder and general manager of NeXTfairs. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was also attended by Qatar Tourism chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, HE Akbar al-Baker; Sleem; Al Hattab Holding vice chairman Abdulaziz Saad al-Kaabi, and Andrew Humphries, acting CEO of Katara Hospitality. Sleem said, “Our first Qatar Travel Mart is a triumph for all in our industry from new countries, new sponsors, and prominent VIPs attending the event. QTM is launching at a time when Qatar Tourism marketing is undergoing significant transformation. With the launch of a comprehensive campaign across 17 countries, Qatar will propel into the spotlight for many years to come. “There is no doubt that Qatar's tourism sector has a bright future with a plan to increase the tourism GDP contribution from 6% to 12% by 2030, and it will take a lot of effort to provide an excellent level of service to fulfill that mandate. QTM is very much part of that effort.” The QTM inauguration was followed by a keynote speech of al-Baker, who spoke about ‘The Importance of Tourism for the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the Developments and Remarks in Qatar’, followed by a speech from Qatar Museums CEO Ahmad Musa al-Namla. QTM’s high-profile three-day conference covered topics, such as ‘What the Future Holds for Travel and Tourism’ and a CEO panel discussion focusing on ‘Behavioral Changes of Consumers and Hiring and Retention of Employees in the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Industry’. PICTURES: Thajudheen A line up of high-profile travel and tourism experts from around the world speaking at the event included Nigel Fell, president & CEO of World Tourism Association for Culture and Heritage (WTACH); Philippe Francois, president of the World Association for Hospitality and Tourism Education and Training (AMFORHT); Dr Cristina Ortega Nuere, Chief Scientific and COO of the World Leisure Organisation; Florian Sengstschmid, CEO of Azerbaijan Tourism Board; Emad Abu Jalala, CEO Gulf Adventures; Dr Ivan Ninov, executive dean of Al Rayyan International University College (ARIU); Sergey Sukhanov, CEO of Corporation Tourism, RF, JSC; Nuno Anahory, chairman of Forum Portugal Qatar; Dr Hussain Sunny Umar, managing director of Maldives Halal Travel Guide; and Nick Wilkinson, regional vice president of the Norwegian Cruise Line, in addition to other keynote speakers. The event featured a ‘Hosted Buyers’ Programme’, involving influential buyers from 15 countries, including England, Germany, Russia, France, Malaysia, Turkey, Sweden, Denmark, and the US to network with exhibitors and close profitable deals. QTM was also attended by more than 70 prominent VIPs, including representatives from Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group, Discover Qatar & Qatar Holidays, Katara Hospitality, Qatar Aviation Authority, Qatar Free Zone Authority, and Public Works Authority (Ashghal), as well as 18 ambassadors and representatives from Germany, Tanzania, Spain, South Korea, Egypt, Mexico, Tajikistan, Thailand, Japan, Dominican Republic, Republic of Haiti, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Italy, India, Indonesia, Rwanda, and Azerbaijan.

QUBF founder and chairperson Dr Olga Revina speaking at the Qatar Trade Summit 2021.
‘Significant progress’ seen in Qatar-Ukraine bilateral ties, says QUBF official

Qatar-Ukraine partnership is witnessing “dynamic growth” with official statistics placing bilateral trade at almost $150mn in 2020, which is more than double over 2018, while the volume of Ukrainian exports to Qatar in the same period exceeded 2019 figures by 75%, the Qatar-Ukraine Business Forum (QUBF) reported Wednesday at the Qatar Trade Summit 2021. Keynoting the event, QUBF founder and chairperson Dr Olga Revina said the basket of Ukraine exports to Qatar comprise ferrous metals (40.4%), cereals (17.8%), fats and oils (17.7%), food industry residues (9.1%), milk, dairy products, poultry eggs (3.6%), ferrous metal products (2.6%), tobacco (1.4%), and meat and offal (1%). On the other hand, Qatar exports to Ukraine are plastics, polymeric materials (79.7%), organic chemical compounds (10.8%), products of inorganic chemistry (8.5%), and textile materials (0.6%). According to Revina, Qatar-based QUBF aims to support the fostering of Qatar-Ukraine trade and investment, transferring innovations and technologies, exchanging knowledge and expertise, and promoting a positive image for both countries. QUBF has a well-established collaboration with the Embassy of Ukraine to the State of Qatar and other prominent organisations in both countries, Revina stressed. She said Qatar-Ukraine projects currently in progress are distributed in the following industries and sectors: maritime, seaport, renewable energy, agri-food, amber, and tech-innovation. In the maritime transport, Revina said Qatari firm QTerminals signed a concession agreement of the Ukrainian Seaport Olvia for 35 years until 2056. “QTerminals will invest about $140mn to develop the port, restore infrastructure of the local city, establish a new equipped grain terminal, improve warehouses, modernise roads and telecommunications networks, and enhance operations, navigation, and logistics. The Port of Olvia will become an international trade hub and leverage Qatar's competitiveness on the world map,” said Revina. On Qatar-Ukraine agri-food sector, Revina said there is “an expressed intention” of Qatari food marker players like Baladna and Widam Food with prospects to invest in Ukraine’s agricultural projects. QUBF facilitates collaboration between Lari Group Qatar with diversified Ukrainian food suppliers, she also said. In the field of renewable energy, Revina said an agreement was signed between Ukrainian companies UDP Renewables and UFUTURE, and Qatari firm Nebras Power for the acquisition of six operating solar power plants in Ukraine to produce more than 700GWh of clean electricity annually, develop and invest in Ukraine’s greenfield and brownfield energy projects, reduce carbon footprint, develop wind power generation, and contribute to a healthy environment. Revina also said Katara – The Cultural Village and the Ukrainian Amber World Association have signed an MoU to jointly develop Qatar’s amber industry. Other milestones include the collaboration between Alfardan Group and Ambra Simha Group in Ukraine. Another aspect of Qatar-Ukraine amber partnership is the knowledge transfer of Ukraine’s expertise and innovation in amber, and the staging of an exclusive Ukraine Amber Exhibition in Qatar to promote the amber culture.

Timo Hammaren
EU-GCC trade investment dialogue seen to restart FTA talks, says European Commission official

The trade investment dialogue between the EU and Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) slated in Brussels by the end of the year may open the possibility to restart EU-GCC free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. Speaking at the Qatar Trade Summit 2021 Wednesday, Timo Hammaren, Deputy Head of Unit, DG Trade at European Commission, said the EU and GCC have been negotiating for a region-to-region FTA. He said the FTA “would no doubt, have brought great benefits for both parties.” However, these negotiations were put on hold in 2008, and in the past two years there have been informal talks of a possible resumption of these negotiations, Hammaren said. The EU does not have trade agreements with the US, China, India, Russia, and the GCC, which the EU now has “about €100bn” of annual trade, according to Hammaren, who described EU’s trade ties with GCC as “really important.” He noted that the new EU trade strategy released in February 2021 focuses increasingly on enforcement and implementation of existing trade agreements rather than negotiating new ones. “But that does not exclude negotiating FTA with a very important trade partner, such as the GCC if conditions are right,” he said.

Timo Hammaren, deputy head of unit, DG Trade at European Commission
Qatar holds €32bn FDI stock in EU, says European Commission official

The European Union’s bilateral relations with Qatar have developed “very positively” in the past two years, Timo Hammaren, deputy head of unit, DG Trade at European Commission, said yesterday at the Qatar Trade Summit 2021. According to Hammaren, EU-Qatar bilateral trade “has risen steadily” since 2016 to reach a record level of “€17bn” in 2019 in terms of trading goods. In parallel, both countries have witnessed “an increasing trend in trading services that reached “€6.8bn” in 2019. “The Covid-19 pandemic brought down our bilateral trade volumes last year as it did with basically all of our major trading partners. But this is a temporary drop and we're mending this as we speak. The trade figures are already coming up this year,” he pointed out. He said, “While the foreign direct investment flows to Qatar have suffered during the past few years, I'm happy to note that our bilateral FDI stocks remain strong with Qatar, which has invested a total investment stock of ‘€32bn’ in the EU, and the EU having ‘€7.4bn’ in Qatar, corresponding roughly to ‘one quarter’ of all FDI in Qatar.” Hammaren also said this is not the only reason for positive developments in EU-Qatar economic relations. In 2018, Qatar and EU signed a bilateral co-operation arrangement during the official visit of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to Brussels, he said. “This co-operation arrangement aims at providing a framework to extend views on issues of common interest, ranging from security and counterterrorism to economic co-operation. The latter has focused on trade facilitation, investment education, academic mobility, and space co-operation. “These issues are discussed in principle annually in the format of the senior officials meetings and I had the pleasure of co-chairing the first such meeting on economic issues back in 2019 with the Qatari government, and I look forward to coming back to Qatar yet this year for the second round of such meeting,” he said, adding that “further sign of this increased engagement with Qatar is that we are shortly expected to open the diplomatic mission to the State of Qatar.” Hammaren added: “On bilateral relations with Qatar, I remain very optimistic. Our trade and investment flows are on a positive track and we have a lot of common interests in our trade strategies in terms of digitalisation and ‘greening’ of our economies, willingness to iron out any bilateral trade irritants, and cooperation in energy and transport sectors – all of these issues will be discussed in our next senior officials meeting taking place soon. “As an example of one area of co-operation, just last month, we signed an EU-Qatar bilateral air transport agreement, which is important in view of the fast-growing number of passengers between the EU and Qatar; we reached more than 6mn passengers in 2019.”

Ukraine's ambassador to Qatar Andrii Kuzmenko.
Ukraine keen to further attract Qatari FDI, says envoy

On the back of robust political and economic ties, which have been growing steadily over the years, Ukraine is keen on further attracting Qatari investments into the Eastern European country’s economy, according to ambassador Andrii Kuzmenko. Ukraine’s top diplomat to Qatar made the statement Tuesday in his welcome remarks during Qatar Trade Summit 2021, which concludes Wednesday in Doha. Kuzmenko said, “It is obvious that both countries have the necessary opportunities and potential to increase investment co-operation. I am sure that the successful concession of Ukrainian seaport Olvia by Qatari company QTerminals was just the beginning of the implementation of long-term bilateral investment projects between our states. “Moreover, during the visit of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Qatar this year, the agreement between Ukrainian enterprise UDP Renewables and Qatari state company Nebras Power on investments in green generation facilities in Ukraine was signed. That, once again, proves the substantive interest of the Ukrainian market for Qatari investors. These two examples are just some of the most visible cases of the successful Ukraine-Qatar business story.” Only recently at the sidelines of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the ambassador said Zelenskyy held a meeting with His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. “One of our main common tasks is to intensify trade and economic co-operation,” said Kuzmenko, quoting the Ukrainian president. “We have necessary conditions, legal framework, and political will to expand our economic relations...the leaders of two proud nations discussed the possibility of intensifying bilateral trade, as well as mechanisms for implementing the existing in the food and investment spheres. During the meeting, special attention was paid to the possibility and conditions of supplying Qatari liquefied natural gas to Ukraine,” Kuzmenko stressed. According to Kuzmenko, Ukraine is becoming “more and more attractive” for foreign business, citing the country’s “great” potential and extensive domestic market, favourable geographical location, skilled manpower, scientific potential, and developed infrastructure. “I am really glad to see an increase of interest in the Ukrainian market from Qatar's investors,” said Kuzmenko, who said the total volume of trade between Ukraine and Qatar amounted to “$146.12mn” in 2020. In the first eight months of 2021, Kuzmenko noted that Ukraine’s trade turnover in goods stood at nearly “$124.5mn” compared to “$98mn” the embassy recorded for the same period in 2020. “These are so far record-high figures in the history of our bilateral relations. Nevertheless, there is still significant, unused potential for its further expansion and diversification,” the ambassador emphasised. He added: “We are also extremely pleased to witness permanent growth of bilateral trade acceleration of the business contacts between our states beginning with substantive co-operation in the investment sphere.” Kuzmenko also lauded Qatar’s reputation as recognised regional leader and its significant role in maintaining peace and stability, as well as the humanitarian assistance the State extended to the international community, including Ukraine, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which the ambassador described as “an unprecedented worldwide humanitarian operation.” Qatar-Ukraine Business Forum (QUBF) founder and chairperson Dr Olga Revina said QUBF is the Association Partner of Qatar Trade Summit 2021 and will be delivering keynotes at the event Wednesday. “As a partner of Qatar Trade Summit, I plan to share more insights about Ukraine and present our QUBF portfolio of attractive business proposals for further collaborative beneficial steps,” Revina told Gulf Times in a statement.