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UK and Qatar renew commitment to deepen collaboration

Qatari deputy prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani Reuters
Qatari deputy prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani
  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met James Cleverly
  • Countries partnering on energy security
  • UK imports from Qatar rose to £8.1bn

The UK and Qatar governments have renewed their commitment to deepen collaboration with investments in key sectors including clean technologies, life sciences, biotech, agtech and electric vehicles.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani,Qatar’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, and James Cleverly, the UK’s foreign secretary, signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to launch the Strategic Dialogue, a new annual platform aimed at expanding bilateral trade.

Both sides also discussed cooperation in the creative economy field, with a further agreement to be signed “in the near future”.

The ongoing alliance on energy security and renewable energy under the inaugural Qatar-UK Energy Dialogue held in May was also welcomed.

Qatar is already a clean growth partner to the UK, with the partnership between the Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce which aims to create a centre for climate tech innovations. 

The Qatar Investment Authority has also invested in Rolls-Royce SMR, the small modular reactors arm of Rolls-Royce.

In a statement, the ministers affirmed that the Qatar-UK relationship has maintained a “positive trajectory” and committed to further strengthening the partnership. They pledged to continue progress on areas including defence and security, energy, regional security, trade and investment, humanitarian and development assistance, the human rights agenda, science and innovation, health and education. 

Cleverly maintains that the UK remains committed to introducing a new electronic travel authorisation visa system this year, of which Qatar will be an early participant, facilitating business and tourism travel for Qatari visitors to the UK.

The talks coincided with the latest figures from the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) that show a 196 percent increase in goods and services with Qatar to more than £12 billion ($14.5 billion) in the year to the end of September last year compared to the same period a year before.

The rise was driven by UK imports from Qatar which rose to £8.1 billion, an increase of 443.5 percent or £6.6 billion compared to the four quarters to the end of Q3 2021. 

Gas imports dominated bilateral trade as the British government pivoted to Qatar after stopping supplies from Russia. Gas made up 90.3 percent of all goods imported from Qatar, worth £6.8 billion.

At Tuesday’s meeting, both sides also welcomed progress made under the Joint Economic and Trade Committee (Jetco), which last met in August. This closer partnership between the UK’s Department for Business and Trade and Qatar’s Investment Promotion Agency aims to help British businesses enter the Qatari market. 

The collaboration will provide information to companies on strategic investment opportunities and provide guidance on market entry options.

The ministers hailed the continuing positive dialogue between Rolls-Royce and the Qatar Foundation on their proposed strategic technology partnership. 

The next Strategic Dialogue is scheduled to be held in Doha in 2024.

Speaking about UK-Qatar ties, Simon Penney, UK trade commissioner for the Middle East and Pakistan, said in November: “Investment in logistics, transport and infrastructure towards Qatar’s National Vision 2030 have made the country an attractive destination for UK businesses to grow. 

“In sectors from healthcare to education and renewable energy to food and drink, British companies are making their mark, and I am confident that our trading relationship will go from strength to strength as we find new areas of opportunity in innovative sectors like agtech and fintech.”

In August, DIT opened the UK export market to Qatar for the supply of vitamins and supplements, enabling UK retail major Holland & Barrett to export these products to the country.

During the Jetco, UK Export Finance also signed an agreement with Qatar Development Bank to boost efforts between the UK and Qatari companies by sharing expertise on export finance, insurance products and cooperation on projects which involve both UK and Qatari goods and services.

Last May, the UK and Qatar signed a Strategic Investment Partnership which will see the Gulf state invest up to £10 billion over the next five years in the UK economy.