Qatar is witnessing “remarkable development towards building a fast-growing and accelerated economy”, UK Secretary of State for Transport and Member of Parliament Chris Grayling has said.
The country is implementing an “ambitious development programme that has transformed Doha into a workshop for a variety of projects that will make it a strong economic centre in the region and the world”, he said in an interview with the official Qatar News Agency (QNA).
On the ongoing siege, Grayling said while it has been a challenging time for Qatar, he is impressed with what he has seen in the country as the economy continues to grow, while also stressing that the UK wants to see a quick resolution to the dispute.
Secretary Grayling said he held constructive meetings with Qatari officials during his visit to Doha and expressed the willingness of the UK to work closely with Qatar in the implementation of major projects in the State, such as the expansion of Hamad International Airport and other infrastructure projects. Such projects, he noted, represented a real opportunity to deepening bilateral ties between the two countries.
The British dignitary said Qatar and the UK have significant partnerships in a number of promising sectors. They also have multiple opportunities to create other areas of co-operation that will enhance the relationship between them – ranging from economic co-operation to forging a strategic partnership that paves the way for deeper defence co-operation.
He noted that Qatar has ambitions for having huge private investment in infrastructure, which will open the door for promising co-operation opportunities and sharing of expertise to work together and help translate the ambitions to reality, especially in light of Doha's preparations to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Grayling expressed readiness to work closely with Qatar to help the country deliver a magnificent World Cup, as Britain has had the recent experience of holding the Olympic Games as well as lessons on how to run these events smoothly.
Speaking on co-operation in the aviation sector, the UK Secretary of State for Transport said he held talks during his visit to Doha on developing and promoting co-operation in this field, noting that British investment has already been made in supporting the development of air traffic control in Qatar. The UK possesses advanced skills in air traffic control system that will help the Qatari administration develop its competence in that area, it was observed.
He expressed hope that British firms would be able to play a part in the expansion of Hamad International Airport in the same way that Qatar Investment Authority is playing a big role in the expansion of Heathrow Airport in London.
The British Secretary praised the outcome of the Qatar-UK Business and Investment Forum, which was held in London recently, in providing promising opportunities and opening up new horizons for co-operation between the two sides, noting that Qatar Investment Authority is committed to investing £5bn in the UK in the coming three years.
He stressed the UK government’s keenness to see British firms investing internationally and Qatari companies investing in the UK.
Grayling was also asked about his assessment of Qatar’s economy, especially in light of the siege imposed on the country. He noted that while it has been a challenging time for Qatar, he is impressed with what he has seen in the country as the economy continues to grow and develop. Grayling stressed that the UK wanted to see a resolution to this dispute as soon as possible, stemming from its good relations with all those involved.
Asked if British interests in Qatar had been affected by the siege, the secretary said: "No and it should not be because Qatar is a country with which we have close friendship and I would not want to see that change due to the difficult circumstances that Qatar has been through. Actually, standing next to friends in tough times is what we seek to do.”
Speaking about the UK’s interests in signing more trade agreements with Qatar, especially after Brexit, Grayling said the UK has ambitions to strengthen trade ties around the world and continue to be a good neighbour of the European Union (countries) and trade with them. Stating that the UK is the biggest export market, he said part of the opportunity for the UK after Brexit is to strengthen trade ties and open up new trading opportunities - whether it is on a sector-by-sector basis or in broad terms through wide-ranging trade agreements.
Above all, he added, the UK wants to be a much stronger investment and trading partner and seeks good friends and long-standing allies such as Qatar to deepen those trading relationships.
Asked about the areas of co-operation that are yet to be discovered between the two countries, Grayling referred to promising sectors in the UK such as the fast-emerging digital economy as a great creative economy, in addition to technological skills in the oil and gas sector that are relevant to Qatar.
He hoped to see British energy firms investing further in the future, especially because there is a whole range of sectors with opportunities for the relationship to deepen.
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