Qatar, which is one of the fastest growing economies in the region, is an attractive destination for US investments, Minister of Economy and Commerce HE Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed al Thani has said.
Qatar welcomes US investors who can benefit from the promising investment opportunities offered by the Qatari economy, Sheikh Ahmed said.
The minister said this while chairing a roundtable with US businessmen on the sidelines of Qatar's participation in the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.
Sheikh Ahmed said international trade and investment form a key part of Qatar's future growth and diversification, adding that the US is one of Qatar's most valued and largest global partners.
He said US and Qatar are bound by several agreements and memorandums of understanding, especially the TIFA Agreement, which led to the establishment of a joint council since 2004.
Sheikh Ahmed said that $24 billion worth of goods were traded in the last five years, noting that 84 percent of the trade balance was in favour of US.
The US is also Qatar's first destination for imports, he said, noting that 16 percent of Qatar's imports came from US in 2017. Sheikh Ahmed said that financial transactions from Qatar to US reached $26.5 billion in 2017 alone, including business profit, salaries, and payments.
Qatari investments in the US have also exceeded $45 billion, equivalent to 23 percent of Qatar's GDP, the minister pointed out.
Sheikh Ahmed said Qatar Airways alone provided a $92 billion boost to the US economy through the purchase of 332 US aircrafts, a deal that supports more than 527,000 direct and indirect jobs.
More than 650 US companies are established in Qatar, out of which 117 firms are fully (100 percent) owned by US citizens, he added.
Sheikh Ahmed said around 15,000 US citizens live in Qatar, and 5,000 highly-skilled US individuals are currently working in the country's private sector.
He said Qatar achieved positive growth rates last year, noting that Qatar's real GDP grew by 1.6 percent at constant prices.
Sheikh Ahmed added that numerous international reports have indicated the strong performance of the Qatari economy.
Quoting the latest report released by the World Bank, he said that Qatar's real GDP growth is expected to increase to 2.8 percent in 2018.
Qatar's inflation rates have also dropped to about 0.5 percent in 2017 compared to 2.7 percent in 2016, he said.
Qatar's foreign trade has shown remarkable growth, increasing by 16 percent. Qatar's total exports also increased by 18 percent, contributing to a total trade surplus of 49 percent, Sheikh Ahmed said.
All these positive indicators, according to the minister, show that Qatar has overcome the siege by enhancing its economic competitiveness and cementing its position as an attractive destination for US investments.
He added that Qatar's economy depends mainly on the oil and gas sector, despite the fact that the government's economic policies have contributed to an increase in the contribution of non-oil sectors to about 51.8 percent of GDP last year.
Sheikh Ahmed touched on the measures that Qatar has taken to overcome the unjust siege imposed on the country, which was aimed at undermining its position, emerging stronger and more independent than ever before.
He added that Qatar has successfully established direct commercial routes with a number of strategic hubs around the world, diverting trade to its major trading partners.
The country has sought to take advantage of the excellent business environment and investment opportunities available in Qatar to create a sophisticated air fleet operated by Qatar Airways.
He said that Qatar has sought to mobilise its signed regional agreements with Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Azerbaijan and Central Asia to expand its trade activities by establishing a sea fleet that connects Qatar with its major trading partners in the world, targeting a market of 400 million population in its first stage.
The legislative framework regulating foreign investments in Qatar offer foreign investors the opportunity to own up to 100 percent of investment projects in various sectors, Sheikh Ahmed said, noting that the Free Zones Law allows 100 percent ownership across many sectors.
Qatar also offers investors numerous incentives including the freedom to transfer capital and choose the legal entity of a project in addition to exempting assets and production requirements as well as exports and imports from taxes and duties, which would streamline the flow of goods and services to and from Qatar.
He added that Qatar has established a single window where investors can extract all required licences, which only require the approval of the Free Zone Authority.
Sheikh Ahmed stressed Qatar's firm commitment to strengthening its position as a regional business hub, highlighting the country's success in establishing direct trade lines with a number of strategic partners around the world.
The minister called on the US business community to benefit from Qatar's strategic geographical location, its advanced infrastructure and its investment and legislative environment, noting that Qatar will continue to honour its agreements and international conventions.
Qatar's private sector is also playing an important role, Sheikh Ahmed said, noting that the state is currently working on a Public-Private Partnership Law that will contribute to supporting this sector and foreign investors in the Qatari economy.
In his concluding remarks, the minister voiced confidence in Qatar's sustainable economic policies and its ability to consolidate its position as a regional business hub, stressing the government's commitment to investing its oil and gas revenues to build a diversified and competitive economy.
The roundtable, which was organised by the Qatar Embassy in the United States, the US-Qatar Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce, brought together Senior Vice President of the American Chamber of Commerce for the Middle East Affairs Khush Choksy, US-Qatar Business Council Managing Director Mohammed Barakat, and Ambassador of Qatar to US HE Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad al Thani, along with a number of senior political, economic and trade figures, as well as businessmen and senior executives from major US companies.
Sheikh Ahmed also participated in high-level meetings held on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York including the United Nations private sector forum 2018.
The ceremony was attended by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, as well as high-level senior government officials and corporate executives from across the world.
The minister also participated in the reception hosted by South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa to celebrate the centennial of late President Nelson Mandela.
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