BY MOHAMMAD SHOEB
DOHA: The visiting UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Ian Paul Livingston (pictured), yesterday said the volume of Qatar-UK bilateral trade, which crossed the £5bn (QR30.28bn) mark in 2012, can be increased further by expanding the areas of cooperation between two countries for mutual benefits.
“The UK and Qatar share an important trading relationship, which can be enhanced further. I am here to deepen and strengthen this relationship by encouraging trade and investments between two countries for mutual benefits,” said Livingston. Qatar’s exports to the UK in 2012 reached £3.2bn (QR19.38bn), which constituted predominantly export of Liquefied Natural Gas as UK sources about 20 percent of its domestic demand for gas from Qatar, while UK’s exports to Qatar for the same year stood at £1.8bn (QR10.68bn).
According to latest figures provided by the British Embassy in Qatar, UK’s exports of goods to Qatar in 2013 increased to £1.46bn, up by 11.45 percent compared to £1.31bn in 2012. Qatar’s exports of goods to the UK stood at £2.56bn during 2013. However, the data for the exports of services for 2013 was not available.
The UK is also keen to play a significant role in Qatar’s development story as the Gulf state is set undertake approximate $220bn worth of investments over the next eight to 10 years in various sectors of the economy, which include development of several mega infrastructure projects.
“With the host of big infrastructure projects coming up in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, the UK, with the wealth of expertise, particularly with the recent experience of hosting the ‘London 2012 Olympics’, which is considered as one of the most successful games in the recent history, can play a significant role. Expertise of UK companies can be used in running sport events, stadiums and their construction,” he said.
“Apart from cooperation in the construction sector, there are several other areas where we can expand the relationships. For example, the UK has a lot expertise in running a large and very complex railways system, which has witnessed over 50 percent traffic growth over the last 10 years. In addition, we also have a world-class aviation industry which has a lot to contribute.”
Recently there were a lot of negative reports in the international media, particularly in British press, about the treatment of construction workers in Qatar, which many believed, was motivated by the vested interests of construction lobbies to create undue pressure on the Gulf state.
Asked about the authenticity of those reports, he said: “I can’t guarantee that all the reports were authentic and reliable, but what I can say is that the Qatari government has taken the issue, rather than the reports, very seriously. And we welcome the government’s intervention to improve the situation. We are very much ready to provide further assistance in terms of expertise related to health and safety of construction workers.”
According to Livingston there are over 150 UK-based companies operating in Qatar, and the size of British community in the country has crossed over 20,000, which is continuing to grow with a rate of 10 percent annually.