Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr is in Doha to highlight and further develop trade and bilateral relations with Qatar.
As part of his visit, Senator Carr will today meet officials of Hassad Foods for talks on further co-operation in agricultural food production between the two countries.
According to the minister, whose visit to Doha is meant “to register Australia’s interest in doing business with Qatar in terms of economic and strategic relations”, Hassad Foods holds agricultural assets worth around $300mn in Australia.
Carr was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a reception hosted yesterday by the Qatar-Australia and New Zealand Business Association at The St Regis Doha.
“Trade between Qatar and Australia increased by 30% last year and reached $1bn as Australia is exporting livestock, meat, wheat and motor vehicles to Qatar. We want to increase this trade volume and expand in other fields of relations, which is why I will talk to Hassad Foods,” he asserted.
The minister said during his meeting yesterday with HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, they spoke about the Middle East peace process, Syria and ways to enhance economic ties.
“On Tuesday, I will meet Qatar’s Minister of Business and Trade. We will discuss economic issues as well as trade agenda. I will tell him that Australia has got very open business investment locations,” he added.
Carr said a number of Australian companies were already involved in construction, design management and event management in Qatar. “I think Australian companies are well placed to contribute to Qatar’s business development and the run-up to the Fifa 2022 World Cup,” he added.
The discussions will also focus on reopening negotiations on the free trade zone between Australia and the GCC, which were suspended in 2009.
Total trade volume between Australia and the GCC currently stands at over $10bn.
“As businesses here diversify and the local economy grows, I believe there will be linkages for more business co-operation in engineering and education (there is no Australian school here). In the field of education, we will have research collaboration and education exchange programmes between institutions in the two countries,” Carr said. “We want more students from the Gulf to study in Australia and will soon conclude an agreement on educational co-operation.”
On collaborations in the oil and gas sector, Australia’s Ambassador to Qatar and the UAE Pablo Kang – who was also present at the session - said: “Some are already saying that Australia will rival Qatar in liquefied natural gas production in the future as Australia holds one of the world’s largest gas reserves. I think Qatar has indicated its interest in investing in our gas sector.”
On Qatar’s World Cup stadium projects, he said a number of Australian construction companies are already bidding for projects in this regard. “Australian companies were actively involved in terms of providing technology in both the Asian Games and the Arab Games, which were held here previously. We have a track record all around the world, including in Qatar,” Kang said.
Carr will also holds talks with the Qatar Airways management on increasing flight routes to Australia.
On Syria, the minister said Australia wants a ceasefire and a peaceful transition. “Meanwhile, we’ve been pressing the United Nations and all countries for an agreement to get medicines into the country and provide humanitarian support,” he said.
According to him, around half a million Palestinians in Syria are caught in the crisis. “We have already taken a number of refugees but there are millions of people who have been displaced in the country. By the end of this year, there will be about 9mn people displayed in Syria, which is a humanitarian catastrophe,” he lamented.
There is already an existing Palestinian population in Australia as well as about 1,000 Iraqi refugees, he said.
Around 4,000 Australians are currently residing in Qatar, most of whom are engaged in the fields of education, construction and engineering.
Also present at the session was the minister’s chief adviser, Graeme Wedderburn.
Follow us on our social media channels: