Qatar, Singapore move closer with a reason
June 30 2013 01:28 AM
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Qatar and the wealthy Southeast Asian city state of Singapore have decided to forge closer ties, and this augurs well for both nations. For Qatar, which is looking for a solid base for its exports throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, and Singapore, which wants to keep close contacts to the countries in the Arabian Gulf and cement its role as a major hydrocarbon hub in Asean.

On June 25, 2013, both the countries agreed to enhance the existing bilateral partnerships and explore additional new areas of cooperation that could be discussed at the 6th Qatar-Singapore High Level Joint Committee Meeting, which is scheduled to be held in Singapore in November 2013.

Singapore and Qatar have a long-lasting, friendly relationship, and the city state’s huge port, the largest in Asean, has emerged as a strategically important hub for Qatar’s LNG exports to the region.

The countries have much in common, actually. Both are virtually small island states situated on important seafaring trade routes. They are relatively young countries, both previously under British rule with Singapore gaining independence in 1965 and Qatar in 1971. Both are members of the Non-Aligned Movement, but strive to play a role on the regional and international stage. Both the countries enjoy a high per capita GDP and are venturing abroad for investment.

Qatar in the past has looked with interest at Singapore — how it pursues economic prosperity for its citizens — and the economic ties have been underscored when Qatari Diar, the property investment arm of the Qatar Investment Authority, bought Singapore’s iconic Raffles Hotel for $275mn in 2012.

Qatar also has relations to large Singapore companies, for example with Keppel Corp, an offshore marine, infrastructure and engineering conglomerate, active, among others, in the oil and gas industry. It also has close relations to Singapore’s major banks and financial institutions.

Furthermore, there is a considerable number of Singaporeans working as expats in Qatar, and a sizeable amount of Qataris visiting the city state for leisure and business.

Most of all, Singapore plays a key role for Qatar in diversifying its LNG exports away from the traditional target countries in the West where demand has fallen due to economic slowdown. In March 2013, Singapore received its first LNG delivery from Qatar at its new LNG terminal at the Singapore port, which has been seen as a significant milestone for Qatar in meeting the growing demand for energy in Southeast Asia and for leveraging the diversity of its energy exports.

Do you think Singapore is the right core partner for Qatar in Southeast Asia?

*Should Qatar strengthen the relations to the city state further or also separately approach neighbouring emerging countries in the region? Let us know through Twitter: @insideinvestor using hashtag #gulftimes.

*Our columnist Dr Arno Maierbrugger is Editor-in-Chief of www.investvine.com, a news portal owned by Inside Investor focusing on Southeast Asian economic topics as well as trade and investment relations between Asean and the GCC. The views expressed are his own.

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