03/12/2018 08:15 AST

The second session of the Qatar-UK Joint Ministerial Commission on Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation kicked off here yesterday, to explore cooperation prospects across various sectors of mutual interest to both countries.

H E Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari, Minister of Commerce and Industry, and George Hollingbery, the UK’s Minister of State for Trade Policy, co-chaired the session, which brought together representatives of a number of government agencies.

At the opening of the session, the Minister of Commerce and Industry highlighted the friendly relations that the UK and Qatar enjoy. He noted that the meeting marks another milestone in the development of British-Qatari relations, and demonstrates that ties remain strong, which reflected positively on the volume of bilateral trade and investments.

The UK ranked as Qatar’s 8th largest trade partner, with a total of $3bn worth of traded goods in 2017. He noted that 79 British companies and 672 Qatari-British companies are operating in the engineering, consulting, contracting, IT, commerce and services sectors in Qatar. Additionally, 35 British companies are licensed and fully operational under the umbrella of the Qatar Financial Centre.

Al Kuwari stressed that Qatar looks forward to strengthening these special ties to bolster bilateral trade and investments, and enhance cooperation across an array of sectors, most notably education, health, banking, engineering, contracting, development and projects related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. This can only be achieved through bolstering cooperation between the private sector in both countries, and exploring new areas of investment that add value to the growing trade exchange and investments, the Minister said.

The Minister of Commerce and Industry explained that International trade and investment form a key part of Qatar’s future growth plans. He said the nation is seeking new deals with the UK and other strategic partners around the world to capitalise on its strategic location between East and West, in a bid to attract foreign investments into its ambitious infrastructure projects.

In this context, Qatar offers investors numerous incentives within the framework of a business-friendly environment, he added. Globally, Qatar ranks first in terms of low inflation rates, sixth in terms of the effect of taxes on competition, eighth in terms of venture capital availability, and ninth in terms of financing small and medium enterprises (SMEs), according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2018, the minister said.

Elaborating on Qatar’s attractive investment environment, Al Kuwari explained that the nation has begun to fast-track the implementation of progressive policies to encourage additional foreign direct investment. For this purpose, Qatar has introduced key amendments to a number of existing business laws to attract and encourage domestic and foreign investments. These laws include the Investment Free Zones Law and a draft law regulating the Investment of Non-Qatari Capital in Economic Activity, which allows up to 100 percent foreign investment in all economic and trade activities. He said Qatar is also working on developing its laws and legislations to streamline the issuance of commercial and industrial licenses, and speed up the renewal of existing ones.

These new regulations will further bolster the country’s position as a regional trade, investment and business hub, supported by superior logistics infrastructure and assets, the Minister added. He said the number of factories operating in Qatar has increased by 14 percent during the past 18 months, achieving a great deal of self-sufficiency in some food products and consumables.

The sustainable economic policies that Qatar has embraced will cement the country’s position as a regional business hub, noting that the state will pursue its strategy of channeling its oil and gas wealth into developing a business-friendly environment. He expressed hope that the Qatari and British private sectors will pursue joint cooperation and strategic investment partnerships that benefit both countries.

The Minister also highlighted the fruitful outcomes of the second session of the Qatar-UK Joint Commission on Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation, noting that an advisory group was established to provide guidance to the private sector.

The Qatar-UK Joint Ministerial Commission identified focal points in both countries for business and investment issues. The Commission made progress in terms of the recognition of UK Non-Standard Degree Qualifications and the promotion of bilateral cooperation when it comes to the adoption of best practices to ensure Food Safety and Security. He welcomed the UK’s decision to invite the relevant authorities in Qatar to participate in a PPP training program in the UK next year.

Qatar and the UK have made great progress in the investment field, he said, referring to the contribution of the Qatar Investment Authority to the UK’s economic growth. He noted that the commission has discussed bilateral cooperation in the SME, financial system, sports economy, education, health and logistics sectors.

Hollingbery praised the historical and strategic British-Qatari relations, noting that the UK is keen on further developing bilateral cooperation mechanisms and relations in various fields.

He also elaborated on the UK’s post-Brexit trade vision, noting that the second session of the Qatar-UK Joint Commission presents an important opportunity to build on the achievements of the commission during its first session, and reflects the keenness of both countries on strengthening cooperation and pursuing the implementation of common objectives.

Hollingbery expressed hope that the commission will formulate final recommendations that will bolster bilateral economic and trade relations. He invited the Qatari delegation to participate in the third session of the UK-Qatari Joint Ministerial Commission on Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation, which will take place in the UK in 2019.

“There is clearly a demand for UK goods and services here, and that is demonstrated by £3.39bn of exports last year. We will continue to support British businesses who want to trade with Qatar, including those companies seeking to take advantage of opportunities on offer at the 2022 World Cup,” he added.

Al Kuwari and Hollingerbury concluded talks by signing the minutes of the meeting. The meeting brought together representatives of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Municipality and Environment, Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Ministry of Public Health, Qatar Central Bank, Qatar Chamber, Public Works Authority and Qatar Development Bank.

The British delegation, meanwhile, included representatives from the UK Department for International Trade and the British Embassy in Qatar.


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