Plans are underway for a high-level visit to Qatar by Spanish officials next year where discussions would include strengthening of bilateral relations and the possible signing of a $1bn Spanish-Qatari joint investment fund, ambassador Ignacio Escobar has said.
“We have a number of deals that are in the pipeline. We are just waiting for an important bilateral visit to take place,” the ambassador told Gulf Times. “I hope it would take place in the first semester of 2017 with a high-level visit to Qatar by Spanish officials. We will have agreements on cooperation in defence, legal and judiciary, education, youth and sports, telecommunications, media, and other sectors.”
Escobar noted that the signing of the joint investment fund, aimed to fuel ventures in Latin America, was stalled because “Spain was under a caretaker government.”
“And a caretaker government in Spain was designed in a way that you cannot make important decisions and that has stopped the decision making process for almost a year.
“We are now waiting for the new minister of trade to be appointed and hopefully it would be someone with a special sensitivity to the Gulf region and to Qatar, in particular. And we would hopefully see that negotiation taking place,” Escobar stressed.
Citing other deals signed between Qatar and other countries, Escobar said “there is no reason why we should not do this,” referring to the joint investment fund.
“And this is very interesting for Qatar because the QIA (Qatar Investment Authority) has said many times that they want to invest in Latin America. It is a new market for them and it is full of opportunities, and Spain is the perfect gateway for Latin America,” the ambassador said.
Asked about bilateral economic relations with Qatar, Escobar said trade relations between Qatar and Spain “are very positive.”
Escobar said Spain was the seventh European supplier for Qatar in 2015, with 2.6% of total European exports.
“We are the fourth customer within the EU for Qatar with 10.2% of total European imports. The value of bilateral trade is declining in recent years, explained by the loss of value in gas and oil imports given the international low price for fossil fuels. In 2015, bilateral trade fell by 14% to €1bn, and by 18% to €587mn from January to August 2016,” the ambassador said.
He said exports from Spain grew by 15% in 2015 to €273mn, adding that from January to August 2016, exports have grown by 26% to €221mn.
“Imports have fallen by 22% in 2015 to €767mn. Between January and August 2016, imports dropped 32% to €366mn. Imports are strongly concentrated in the fuels chapter, accounting for 93% of our total sales, and the plastic sector accounting for 7%,” he said.
On bilateral Investments, Escobar said Spanish investment stock in Qatar in 2014 stood at €102mn. “In 2015, gross investment flows from Spain was recorded at €1mn, the same amount as in the first six months of 2016, showing that investment in Qatar is very active in 2016.”
He added, “Spanish firms are very interested in Qatar's development, placed in main sectors such as construction, clothing, R&D, railways, metro, energy, health system, among others. Qatar's investment stock in Spain in 2014 stood at €90mn. Gross investments in Spain are focused on state firms, mall companies, food sector, air transport and energy sector.”