Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Doha will further strengthen Qatar’s relationship with the far eastern Asian country across various fields including energy, infrastructure, education and agriculture.
In many ways, Qatar’s relationship with Japan is indeed unique. Japan is Qatar’s first buyer of liquefied natural gas.
Qatar emerged on global LNG supplier map with Japan’s Chubu Electric Power Company lifting the first liquefied natural gas cargo from Ras Laffan in January 1997.
A firm foundation for Qatar’s LNG industry expansion was laid following the initial 25-year agreement between Qatargas and Chubu Electric Power Company on behalf of some Japanese buyers in the nineties.
Currently, Qatar is Japan’s second largest LNG supplier and the third largest oil supplier.
While in Doha, Abe said he would like to see his country further develop its relationship with Qatar centring on the strong partnership on energy. He had also said both the Japanese public and private sectors would closely work with their Qatari counterparts in developing, what he called a “partnership for stability and prosperity”.
Both the countries have agreed to start negotiations for an investment agreement as Qatar is expected to see an increase in infrastructure projects as it hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
During their Doha talks Abe and HE the Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani agreed to co-operate in building basic infrastructure such as stadiums, and railway and sewage systems, and to ensure stable supplies of crude oil and liquefied natural gas from Qatar.
Abe has encouraged more Japanese companies to do business and invest overseas as part of reviving the deflation-mired economy at home. No wonder then that a 200-strong delegation that accompanied him included CEOs of many major Japanese conglomerates.
The two sides have also agreed to ease visa procedures that will enhance tourism in the two countries. Qatar has already welcomed Japan’s decision to simplify visa procedures for application of ordinary passport holders for Japanese visas, and consideration to the waiver of visas for Japanese and Qatari diplomatic or official and special passport holders.
Also, Japan urged Qatar to lift restrictions on food imports from the Asian country and said it is high time that a free trade agreement (FTA) with Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) is arrived to spruce up investments.
A successful agreement (FTA) could lead to higher volumes of trade and investments between Japan and the six Gulf countries.
According to a Japanese official, negotiations for the FTA started in 2006 but have not made much progress thereafter.
Qatar established its diplomatic relationship with Japan more than 40 years ago. And over the last four decades this relationship has become mutually beneficial.
Qatar was the largest donor ($100mn) to Japan in the aftermath of the March 2011 disaster in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture.