The close strategic relationship between the U.S. and Qatar is on display this week as officials from both governments meet for the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue. First initiated in 2018, the Strategic Dialogue is an opportunity for American and Qatari officials to form new partnerships not just in the commercial and security realms but across a wide range of other areas such as education, culture, and energy. The U.S. Chamber has long advocated for this platform as a way to ensure consistent and sustained engagement by the U.S. and Qatari governments and to prioritize the relationship by meeting during the pandemic.
Trade and investment are fundamental to this discussion. More and more American companies are entering the Qatari market and U.S.-Qatar trade grows exponentially every year. The U.S. is Qatar’s largest foreign direct investor with a total of $110.6 billion in FDI, and the U.S. is the largest single source of exports to Qatar at $6.5 billion in 2019. More than 850 U.S. companies now operate in Qatar in a variety of key industries, and there was over $9.4 billion in trade between the two countries in 2019, a growth of over 100% since 2017. This year, companies continue to grow their investments despite global uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this in mind, yesterday the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Qatar Business Program, co-chaired by ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, partnered with the U.S.-Qatar Business Council (USQBC) to host its third annual business forum virtually on the sidelines of the Strategic Dialogue, which allowed for the U.S. business community to participate in and help inform the Strategic Dialogue discussions.
Officials from both the Qatari and U.S. governments provided remarks during the forum including H.E. Mr. Ali bin Ahmed Al-Kuwari, Minister of Commerce and Industry for the State of Qatar, and the Honorable Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Mr. Tom Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Ambassador Anne Patterson, President of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council; and key actors in the business relationship such as representatives from the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Qatar Businessmen Association also participated alongside executives from small and large American businesses with investments in Qatar.
Discussions during the forum reflect great optimism around investing in Qatar. Qatar continues to improve its business environment to make it more attractive for international investment and is expanding projects in areas such as infrastructure, oil and gas, and logistics, and around the World Cup 2022. Both governments are confident that the bilateral trade relationship will continue to flourish in the coming months as the global economy recovers post-COVID. Although commercial ties are already strong between the U.S. and Qatar, there remains many new opportunities that can grow this relationship even further.
U.S. Business Outlook in Qatar Report
The American business community also has great confidence in Qatar’s economy and business environment. This week, the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Qatar Business Program released its U.S. Business Outlook in Qatar 2020 report, which shows that U.S. companies are eager to work in the Qatari market. This report is intended to serve as a barometer of U.S. business sentiment in the State of Qatar. It was informed through a survey and interviews with senior business executives from companies doing business in Qatar, and follows the first edition of this report from 2015. Our hope is that the report will help to inform the discussion between government officials and deepen the overall understanding of one of the world’s most vibrant and rapidly growing markets.
The report finds that American companies have achieved great success in Qatar and will continue to seek growth and business opportunities there. They have a strong footprint in Qatar and many are overwhelmingly looking to maintain and expand operations and their workforce. In the report, the U.S. Chamber also recommends further elevating the bilateral relationship to a U.S.-Qatar Strategic Partnership as has been advocated by the Transatlantic Leadership Network, which will ensure consistent and sustained engagement by our governments on the U.S.-Qatar relationship.
Growing the U.S.-Qatar Commercial Relationship
As officials from the U.S. and Qatar governments gather this week for the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue, it is clear that Qatar is ‘open for business’ and should be commended for adopting a reform-focused agenda with an eye to offering the private sector more commercial and investment opportunities. Qatar boasts a dynamic, robust and expanding economy and the business community is optimistic about the future.
The U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Qatar Business Program will look to work closely with the U.S. and Qatari governments to create opportunities for engagement with the private sector. This includes a major U.S.-Qatar investment forum and a roadshow of Qatari companies to several U.S. cities in 2021, both of which were announced this week during the Strategic Dialogue and are a priority of both governments over the coming months. The Chamber shares these priorities as one way to keep the focus on our strategic economic relationship and actually fulfill the business community’s optimism by driving bilateral trade and investment to new heights.