Latin American nation Ecuador is seeking co-operation, if not assistance, from Qatar for realising its long-time dream for a large petroleum refinery, with a capacity for refining approximately 325,000 barrels of crude per day (bpds) said Minister for Foreign Trade and Investments Pablo Campana Saenz.
The minister informed this in an interaction with journalists who met him on Sunday night at a reception held in in his honour by Equador's ambassador to Qatar Ivonne A-Baki at her official residence. A number of ambassadors, and others diplomats serving in Qatar, besides a host of Qatari officials and businessmen also attended the dinner reception.
While speaking about the proposed petroleum refinery, the minister said it would be one of the largest foreign investments in the entire South America, totalling approximately $10bn.
"We are exploring various possibilities like setting it up as a joint venture between Qatar and Ecuador or as Qatar's own venture. Russia's Gazprom is also evincing interest for a tie up for building the refinery," said Campana Saenz.
Pablo Campana Saenz... Hopes to attract Qatari investments in Ecuador: PICTURE: Ram Chand
Currently there are three smaller refining facilities in Ecuador, which together could refine about 170,000bpd. Ecuador's daily production is close to 545,000bpd. About 65% of its oil used for meeting Ecuador's own requirements and the remaining is exported to neighbouring countries, said the minister.
While expressing happiness at the deliberations he had with Qatar's Minister of Economy and Commerce HE Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker, representatives of the Qatar Chamber, Qatar Businessmen Association, Katara Hospitality chairman among others, Campana Saenz said Qatar and Ecuador expressed their desire to increase the bilateral trade between the to significant levels, capitalising on the strengths of each other.
The minister said a 25-member team of private entrepreneurs from Ecuador would visit Qatar towards the end of April and a Qatari business delegation would reciprocate it with a visit of Quito sometime in June.
In his talks with the Qatar Airways, the Ecuador minister reiterated their country's appeal for a direct passenger flight to Quito from Qatar. A few weeks ago Ecuador ambassador A-Baki had also made a similar request, citing the Ecuadorian capital's accessibility and proximity to at least three South American countries.
"Ecuador is at the centre of the Earth and it would be convenient for people of a number of South American countries to travel to the Gulf region, if direct flights are operated between Qatar and Quito", said the minister, while reminding that there are two weekly cargo planes operated by Qatar Airways between Doha and Quito.
Yesterday, the minister also met the officials of Qatalum, exploring possibilities for ventures in Ecuador. Campana Saenz also sought Qatar's co-operation in investing in a massive social housing project, numbering approximately 325,000 homes across Ecuador.
Replying to a query, the minister said Ecuador is ready to share its expertise in such areas as mining, construction, services sector and shrimp farming among others.
While hoping that their dollar-based economy and political stability would help his country attract investments from abroad, including Qatar, Campana Saenz said Ecuador is also offering tax benefits to foreign businessmen, investing in projects in their economic zones. "Remarkably good tax benefits of up to 20 years are given to such investors," he added.
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