The UK has been witnessing growth in its exports of goods and services to Qatar, even as trade between both countries stood at around $9bn in 2019, British ambassador Jon Wilks has said.
Speaking at the virtual forum "Bilateral & Synergistic Opportunities between Qatar and the United Kingdom" hosted by Doha Bank on Wednesday, Wilks underscored both nations’ growing trade and investment relationship.
“We are buying more gas from Qatar, so in that direction that is of increasing importance. We are a growing exporter of a range of goods and services into Qatar, which makes us the third largest supplier into Qatar,” said Wilks, who added that “Qatar is the UK’s third largest market in the region.”
“In my initial calls to ministers and senior officials on the trade and investment side, it is quite clear that both countries want to take that further and see if their economies will recover from Covid-19 leading to growth in trade and investments,” the ambassador continued.
The forum, which was hosted by Doha Bank CEO Dr R Seetharaman, also featured Jinoos Shariati, first secretary at the British embassy in Qatar and director of Trade and Investment at the Department of International Trade; Bandar Reda, CEO and secretary general of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce UK; Engineer Nasser al-Ansari, chairman of Just Real Estate; and Richard Whiting, chief representative, Doha Bank UK Representative Office.
Wilks said that while Covid-19 sent shockwaves across global economies, the pandemic “also accelerated some positive trends,” such as the growing relationship between the UK and Qatar in trade and investments.
Wilks, who described Qatar and the UK’s political relationship as “in great shape,” said “a lot of high-level political contact” was held between the leaders and top officials of both countries in the past six months.
He also underscored the role played by the Qatari government, especially Qatar Airways, in the repatriation of British tourists and travellers at the height of the health crisis and for the country’s “immense support during this very difficult time.”
Aside from political ties and a growing trade and investment relationship, Qatar and the UK witnessed “increasing defence and security co-operation,” a part of which would be delivered in Qatar and the UK’s partnership in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Wilks noted.
“UK ministers have recently focused on the World Cup as part of looking ahead for the next two years, and we are ambitious for our partnership, not just on security but to help Qatar deliver a carbon neutral and inclusive World Cup, which welcomes everybody from all over the world,” Wilks pointed out.
With investments in the UK now at the “£40bn mark,” Wilks said Qatar is “very interested and willing” to expand its investments further, citing projects like the LNG terminal in Milford Haven.
Wilks also said Brexit would open opportunities for trade deals with the six member states of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).
“A result of Brexit will mean that we can negotiate trade deals with markets beyond Europe; one of those deals could be with the GCC as a whole. We’re actually starting with a trade and investment review between the UK and all the Gulf markets and see what would work best for both sides,” he said.
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