His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s upcoming scheduled visits to a number of Asean member countries this year, including the Philippines and Vietnam, will further boost opportunities for the development of Asean-Qatar relations, the chairman of the Asean Committee in Doha (ACD) has said.
“The frequent high level visits between Asean and the GCC (especially Qatar) have demonstrated that distance is no obstacle to the development of warm political relations and economic co-operation,” noted Dato Ahmad Fadil bin Shamsuddin, also the Malaysian ambassador.
He was speaking at the 51st Asean Day celebration at the Sheraton Grand Doha Resort and Convention Hotel on Wednesday, which was attended by Asean head of missions, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Asian Department deputy director Rashid al-Dehaimi, and other embassy officials.
Shamsuddin cited the Amir’s state visits to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in 2017, which paved the way to strengthen bilateral relations and close co-operation in various fields.
“Asean is keen to deepen co-operation with international partners, including the GCC for mutual benefit,” he pointed out.
“The Asean embassies accredited in Doha (Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines) look forward to increase bilateral investments for the business communities of Southeast Asia and Qatar,” the envoy said.
According to Shamsuddin, Asean’s official partnership with Qatar is through the GCC, with the first Asean-GCC ministerial meeting taking place in June 2009 in a neighbouring Gulf country.
He said this meeting witnessed “strong political commitments to forge a substantive co-operative relationship” between the two regions.
“Qatar plays an important role in connecting these two regions through its engagement in fostering synergies between Asean and the GCC,” Shamsuddin noted.
On the economic aspects, he expressed confidence that the Asean-GCC Free Trade Area will become an important part for other areas in the future.
“Both organisations agreed to promote greater understanding with a view towards forging closer economic co-operation and integration, including exploring the possibility of developing a trade and investment framework agreement,” Shamsuddin said.
“I believe that Asean and the GCC, Qatar in particular, stand to gain from each other’s prosperity.”
“Both groupings should now start a dialogue aiming to find an adequate balance between our interests,” the envoy added.
He expressed optimism that the sessions held between ACD ambassadors and HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani in March, and the upcoming sessions with Qatar government’s senior ministers will strengthen the opportunity for further engagement between Qatar and Asean member states.
Asean world's 7th largest market
Asean, which was established on August 8, 1967, is now the seventh largest market in the world and projected to become the world’s fourth-largest market by 2030, according to the Asean Committee in Doha (ACD) chairman Dato Ahmad Fadil bin Shamsuddin.
In terms of GDP, Asean, comprised of 10 member countries with 633mn population, has registered a strong pace of 5.1% in 2017 and for 2018, growth rate is projected at 5.3% with positive trends observed across all Asean members states.