Minister of Commerce and Industry HE Ali bin Ahmed al Kuwari and Khush Choksy, Senior Vice President, Middle East and Turkey Affairs, US Chamber of Commerce, co-chaired a roundtable on bilateral Qatari-US trade relations, in Doha on Sunday.
The roundtable was organised within the framework of the second Qatar-US Strategic Dialogue, Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) said in a statement.
In his opening speech, Kuwari said the session was designed to drive forward the shared Qatari-US economic agenda by facilitating trade and investment opportunities, and promoting bilateral ties and partnerships.
Qatar and the US are strong business partners, the minister stressed, noting that the close and mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries go back to decades.
Kuwari said both Qatar and 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
The minister also expressed his hope that the latest round of discussions in the context of the second Qatar-US Strategic Dialogue would contribute to bolstering bilateral relations and lay the foundation for a bold new chapter in this ongoing
Kuwari said the strategic dialogue provides an opportunity to make investment plans and build strong economic ties to enable both sides to take full advantage of the range of opportunities available for Qatari and US companies in the fields of industry, health and education in public and private sectors.
Qatar’s economic performance has remained robust under the guidance of the country’s wise leadership, thus offering a stable environment for foreign investment, he said.
In spite of regional adversity, following the unjust blockade imposed on Qatar on June 5 2017, the country has proven resilient, Kuwari stressed, referring to Qatar’s positive economic indicators.
“In 2017, Qatar’s GDP grew 1.6 percent at constant prices, and the World Bank expects that rate to increase by an average of 3 percent from 2019 to 2020 as the government seeks to further promote foreign investments,” he noted.
Kuwari 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.” Qatar is also seeking to capitalise on its advanced infrastructure to further bolster foreign trade, the minister said.
Through Hamad Port, Qatar has established, and continues to expand, direct commercial routes with competitive transit times to and from a number of strategic hubs around the world, Kuwari said, adding that Qatar’s trade connection with various foreign ports has grown with launching of new shipping lines.
“Hamad International Airport is also maintaining passenger and cargo traffic at a normal pace to more than 160 destinations worldwide,” he added.
Touching on the legislative frameworks developed by the state to stimulate investment, Kuwari said Qatar has ratified new laws and regulations and introduced amendments to existing legislations since the previous round of strategic dialogue, in a bid to promote both local and international private investments in the Qatari economy.
“These amendments include a new law to regulate the investment of non-Qatari capital in economic activity,” he said, noting 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, Kuwari added.
Elaborating on the development of Qatari-US bilateral ties over the last ten years, the minister said bilateral trade volume has more than doubled, reaching $6 billion in January- October 2018 period, accounting for 6.23 percent of Qatar’s total trade exchange with its trading partners.
In 2018, the US was ranked the top destination of Qatar’s imports, Kuwari said, noting that 19.5 percent of Qatar’s imports came from the US, valued at $5.15 billion.
He added that 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 licenced under the umbrella of the Qatar Financial Centre.
Kuwari 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 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Other investment opportunities exist in Qatar’s tourism sector, the minister said, referring to plans to attract 5.6 million visitors annually by 2023 - double the number of visitors which the country welcomed in 2016.
Kuwari also highlighted large-scale projects in food security, education and health services.
“This positions Qatar as an encouraging and attractive environment for investors,” he said, voicing confidence that US companies will find new and willing partners keen on establishing smart long-term business relationships.
“This roundtable is a showcase to learn about the full spectrum of business and investment opportunities available in Qatar, and an important space for open conversation with key US businesses,” he stressed.
Kuwari concluded his remarks by reiterating Qatar’s commitment to its strengthened bilateral relations and economic strategic partnership with the US, based on common interests and mutual understanding.
Choksy elaborated on 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.
Qatar is one of the leading trading and investment partners of the US, Chocksy added, noting that recent meetings and events provide an important platform to discuss trade and investment opportunities and mechanisms to enhance cooperation between the two countries in various fields.
The roundtable was attended by Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al Thani, Chairman of the Qatari Businessmen Association, HE Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad al Thani, Ambassador of Qatar to the US, and Mansoor bin Ebrahim al Mahmoud, CEO of Qatar Investment Authority, 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.
The US delegation included Ambassador Anne Patterson, President of the US-Qatar Business Council, along with senior executives from major US companies.
The participants were briefed on projects being undertaken by the Qatar Investment Authority, the Free Zones Authority and Barzan Holdings.
Discussions touched on 2022 FIFA World Cup-related projects and investment opportunities that US companies can tap into, as well as the expansion plans of Hamad International Airport.
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