Asean is developing into a major market for Qatar’s liquefied natural gas exports, with first spot shipments already been delivered to Singapore, Thailand and, this July, for the first time to Malaysia.
By Dr Arno Maierbrugger
The recent announcement that Qatar’s Foreign Ministry will set up a special unit to nurture relations with the 10-member bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is good news, both for Gulf investors as well as for Asean companies looking for broader opportunities in the Gulf Co-operation Council states. Inside Investor since 2011 has been dedicated to foster such relations and has been quite successful.
For example, the signing of the free trade agreement between the GCC and Malaysia was arranged during the Invest Malaysia event held in Abu Dhabi in 2011. This was followed by the largest foreign direct investment inflow ever into the country from the GCC.
Furthermore, Inside Investor arranged over $5bn investment from Qatar into Sarawak during several business events held in Kuching, the state’s capital – with the latest one under participation of Masraf Al Rayan and the Qatar Chamber, as well as the signing of several memorandums of understanding with the government of Thailand.
With these steps, Qatar has become increasingly active in Asean as it has been acknowledged in Doha that the region is presently among the fastest growing worldwide and worth exploring. Qatari companies further on ventured into Asean with substantial investments in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and just recently with a successful bid for a mobile phone licence in Myanmar. Qatar Airways has expanded its routes to the region, and tourism numbers are continuously growing.
Since lately, Asean is also developing into a major market for Qatar’s liquefied natural gas exports, with first spot shipments already been delivered to Singapore, Thailand and, this July, for the first time to Malaysia.
The Asean growth story will continue. Although the 10 countries are developing at a different pace and a lot of streamlining has still to be done in terms of reducing trade barriers and improving economic regulations, the upcoming Asean Economic Community will transform the grouping into a new global powerhouse. Unlike in the period before the Asian crisis in 1998, the countries are now much better prepared to prevent overheating of their economies and curb disturbing factors such as inflation or monetary volatility. With these strengths, that gradually come at the expense of weakening economies in China and India, Asean is very well geared up for future challenges.
And the best thing is that for investors, especially from the Gulf, the full bouquet of investment opportunities is on the table: From greenfield ventures and basic developments in countries such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia to investments into value-adding businesses of many kinds in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines to high-tech endeavours or finance in Malaysia and Singapore.
Do you think that Qatar decides right to shift its investment and trade collaboration interest toward Southeast Asia? There are advantages, but what are the risk factors? 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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