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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue

Thank you, Mike, for hosting today’s dialogue, and for your incredible leadership on the breakthrough peace agreements in the Middle East. You have transformed the dynamics of the Middle East and have provided so many people with hope. My thanks also to his Excellencies: Al Thani, Al-Kuwari, El Emadi, and Ambassador Al Thani. We are so pleased that you are here to join these discussions. And a warm welcome also to my colleague, Steven Mnuchin.

I had the pleasure of visiting Doha last November at the invitation of Amir Al Thani. In our meetings, we considered ways to increase FDI in each other’s economies. And we discussed the importance of our partnership in the semiconductor industry. I am pleased that the International Trade Administration is working with the Qatar government on a virtual roundtable with U.S. semiconductor companies during this October’s “Discover Global Markets” meeting in Indianapolis.

Since my visit to Doha last year, our two countries have sustained a close bilateral economic relationship. The US is Qatar’s largest foreign direct investor with a total $10.6 billion in U.S. FDI. And we are the single largest source of exports to the country at $6.5 billion in 2019.

The energy sector continues to present excellent opportunities for U.S. companies. Your North Field mega LNG expansion project is set to increase natural gas production by 64 percent by 2027, from 77 million tons per year, to 126 million tons per year.

U.S. companies are well-positioned and eager to provide technical expertise, equipment, and construction services to your major LNG projects. The recently announced joint team program combines three excellent ideas: vertical integration, inclusion of foreign investment, and access to technological expertise. It is a great model for the future. So is the planned huge ethane cracker at Ras Laffan.

While the global pandemic and low energy prices are creating uncertainty in many parts of the Middle East, we know that your country is resilient and can endure through difficult times. I witnessed this firsthand during my 2019 visit to Doha, as the country was contending with the economic fallout caused by the regional blockade. Your entrepreneurial transformation of a sudden dairy product shortage into an air conditioned and fully automated farm that made the country a net exporter is a wonderful and heroic achievement. And I echo Secretary Pompeo’s urgency that your country pursues normalized diplomatic and trade relations with its neighbors in the region.

Finally, I am pleased to see Qatar taking steps to open its economy even further to foreign investment and innovation. In January last year, Amir Al Thani signed a new foreign investment law allowing foreign firms to have up to 100 percent ownership in all economic sectors, save for banking and insurance.

Moreover, this past June, the Amir signed the Public-Private Partnership law, an important development resulting from the goals set forth in Qatar’s Vision 2030 strategic plan. This law is just the latest step in the country’s effort to promote economic diversification.

To support that initiative, the Commerce Department’s Commercial Law Development Program has provided regular training and consultation to government officials responsible for drafting and implementing the law. The U.S. Government is committed to providing these kinds of resources in support of initiatives that deepen commercial ties between our two countries.

Thank you, again, for your devotion to our long-term bilateral relationship, and friendship. I look forward to today’s discussion.

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