The US wants to expand its relationship with Qatar beyond the defence and energy industries by creating more opportunities for the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sectors of both countries, a top US diplomat has said.
Ambassador Anne Patterson, who is also the president of the US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC), told Gulf Times
on the sidelines of a meeting with Qatar Chamber officials on Monday that Qatar’s investment law will have a significant impact on FDI inflows to Qatar, particularly in the SME sector.
“The new investment law will play a key role in developing small and medium-sized businesses because you want to attract US SMEs to Qatar and vice versa because these are big employment generators and they absorb labour,” Patterson pointed out.
Patterson said she learned during one of her meetings in Doha that the number of potential SMEs or entrepreneurs visiting Qatar from the US “is depressingly small.”
“And that is something that we really have to work on because there are an interesting range of opportunities and partnerships that could be forged with local entrepreneurs in Qatar, and to take advantage of the generous funding for startups, so we will definitely work on that,” she said.
USQBC president Anne Patterson.
She noted that among the specific issues USQBC will tackle during its meeting in Qatar would be the expansion of investment opportunities beyond hydrocarbons and defence co-operation.
“We’re trying to expand beyond energy and defence but we brought the board of directors here so they could meet directly with Qatari officials and learn about the situation here. We have Qatari and American board members, but it is important for the American board members to see firsthand the situation,”
“The backbone of this relationship has been in the defence and energy sectors and that needs to be expanded to other sectors and to small and medium-sized businesses, as well as to Qatari entrepreneurs,” she said.
Members of the Qatari delegation from Qatar Chamber also called for the integration of Qatari SMEs in supply chain management of big ticket projects, and forming joint ventures, as well as the transfer of technology and R&D.
Qatar Chamber chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani noted that the chamber had emphasised during the meeting that aside from big-ticket US contracts in the fields of energy and defence, a part of US businesses should go to the local market in Qatar.
“Our market is ready and we have many companies here that can do the same jobs that other multinational companies are doing,” Sheikh Khalifa stressed during the meeting.
Patterson said one of the USQBC’s projects for the year is the publication of a book, or pamphlet, on doing business in Qatar. For his part, Sheikh Khalifa extended the chamber’s support to the project by providing the necessary information needed to enlighten US companies on the business opportunities available in Qatar.
On Qatar’s investment law, Patterson said: “The impact is very dramatic because it allows for foreign ownership across all sectors and that is a huge draw because companies want to own their production, so I think Qatar has liberalised its economy very dramatically in the past year. It liberalised and improved its labour law, so I think we’re going to see a lot of foreign investments in Qatar.”
She added, “The business environment here is changing very rapidly. We met with HE the Minister of Economy and Commerce Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani about the new investment law, which provides 100% foreign ownership across all sector, as well as various reforms. The labour laws had also undergone extremely dramatic changes in Qatar.”
Sheikh Khalifa also said discussions are ongoing for another economic roadshow in the US West Coast, particularly in California, Texas, and other states slated by the end of September 2018.