Qatar-US bilateral trade volume stood at $6bn in 2018, said HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari during a roundtable discussion on the sidelines of the Qatar-US Strategic Dialogue held on Sunday in Doha.
Al-Kuwari and US Chamber of Commerce senior vice president for Middle East and Turkey Affairs, Khush Choksy, co-chaired the roundtable meeting on Qatar-US bilateral trade relations.
In his opening speech, al-Kuwari said the session was designed to drive forward the shared Qatar-US economic agenda by facilitating trade and investment opportunities, and promoting bilateral ties and partnerships.
Al-Kuwari said both Qatar and the US “are constantly seeking to expand bilateral trade and investment,” noting that the signing of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) in 2004 “marked the first milestone in the journey to strengthen bilateral ties.”
The minister said the strategic dialogue provides an opportunity for investment plans and to build strong economic ties to enable both sides to take full advantage of the range of opportunities available for Qatari and American companies in the fields of industry, health, and education in both public and private sectors.
He also highlighted Qatar’s economic performance, which he said, “has remained robust under the guidance of the country’s wise leadership, thus offering a stable environment for foreign investment.”
Despite the June 2017 economic blockade, al-Kuwari said Qatar has proven to be resilient, and was able to achieve positive economic indicators. He said in 2017, Qatar’s GDP grew 1.6% at constant prices, and the World Bank expects that rate to increase by an average of 3% from 2019 to 2020 as the government seeks to further promote foreign investments.
He said Qatar’s success is also reflected in the country’s rankings on the Global Competitiveness Report 2018, issued by the World Economic Forum. Globally, Qatar ranks first in terms of low inflation rates, sixth in terms of the low effect of taxes on competition, eighth in terms of venture capital availability, and ninth in terms of financing small and medium enterprises.
According to al-Kuwari, Qatar is also seeking to capitalise on its advanced infrastructure to further bolster foreign trade. Through Hamad Port, Qatar has established, and continues to expand, direct commercial routes with competitive transit times both to and from a number of strategic hubs around the world.
Al-Kuwari said Qatar’s trade connection with various foreign ports has grown as new shipping lines were launched since the blockade. He said Hamad International Airport is also maintaining passenger and cargo traffic at a normal pace to more than 160 destinations worldwide.
On legislative frameworks developed by the state to stimulate investment, al-Kuwari said Qatar has ratified new laws and regulations, and introduced amendments to existing legislations since the previous strategic dialogue to promote both local and international private investments in the Qatari economy.
Al-Kuwari said these amendments include a new law to regulate the investment of non-Qatari capital in economic activity. He noted that the law facilitates foreign investors’ access to the Qatari market by providing incentives in terms of land allocation to non-Qatari investors seeking to set up projects, tax and customs exemptions, and enabling the free transfer of investments to and from Qatar.
The new law also aims at promoting economic development, attracting foreign investment in all economic and commercial activities, and bolstering the country’s confidence and investment security index, al-Kuwari stressed.
On Qatar-US bilateral ties over the last 10 years, al-Kuwari said bilateral trade volume has more than doubled, reaching $6bn from January to October 2018, accounting for 6.23% of Qatar’s total trade exchange with its trading partners. In 2018, the US ranked as the first destination for Qatar’s imports, al-Kuwari said, noting that 19.5% of Qatar’s imports came from the US, amounting to $5.15bn.
Al-Kuwari said 117 fully-owned US companies and 565 joint Qatari-US firms are operating in the engineering, consulting, contracting, IT, commerce, and services sectors in Qatar, while 55 US companies are licensed under the umbrella of the Qatar Financial Centre.
He said the private sector in both countries is well positioned to tap into a multitude of existing promising investment opportunities, including infrastructure projects related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Other investment opportunities exist in Qatar’s tourism sector, al-Kuwari said, referring to plans to attract 5.6mn visitors annually by 2023 – double the number of visitors the country welcomed in 2016. The minister also highlighted large-scale projects in food security, education, and health services.
“This positions Qatar as an encouraging and attractive environment for investors,” al-Kuwari said, even as he expressed confidence that US companies “will find new and willing partners keen on establishing smart long-term business relationships.”
For his part, Choksy underscored the importance of promoting bilateral relations, while highlighting both countries’ keenness “on strengthening existing partnerships to achieve common interests and serve the development objectives of both Qatar and the US.
Choksy said Qatar “is one of the leading trading and investment partners of the US,” and noted that recent meetings and events provided an important platform to discuss trade and investment opportunities and mechanisms to enhance co-operation between the two countries in various fields.
The roundtable was also attended by the Qatari Businessman Association chairman HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani; Qatar’s ambassador to the US Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad al-Thani, and Qatar Investment Authority CEO Mansoor bin Ebrahim al-Mahmoud, along with senior officials from the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Qatar Airways, Free Zones Authority, and Barzan Holdings, as well as other Qatari executives, investors, and businessmen.
Choksy was joined by ambassador Anne Patterson, who is the president of the US-Qatar Business Council, and senior executives from major US companies.
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