The second-edition of Qatar-Italy joint ministerial meeting on trade and economic cooperation is expected to be held in early next year in Rome. The long-awaited meeting will be attended by top business leaders, CEOs and senior government officials from both sides, including the Minister of Economy and Commerce, H E Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, and his Italian counterpart.
During the meeting both sides will hold discussions on a wide-range of topics and issues, including ways of deepening and expanding bilateral cooperation, with special focus on exploring opportunities in upcoming Investment Free Zones in Qatar, where Italian companies, especially SMEs, are keen to establish manufacturing units.
Qatar recently announced new legislations to attract local and foreign investments by enhancing business environment, which offers no restriction on nationality of investors, capital cap, choice of legal framework for the project, freedom of fixing prices of products, setting profits.
'Both sides have agreed to hold the meeting in the first month of 2018; and the exact dates are to be finalised very soon, Pasquale Salzano (pictured), Ambassador of Italy to Qatar told The Peninsula in an exclusive interview.
He also said that the first edition of the meeting was held two years ago in Doha.
'Scores of Qatari and Italian companies, CEOs and senior government officials are expected to participate in the meeting that aims at further strengthening bilateral trade and economic cooperation, said Salzano.
He added: 'Italian companies expect Qatar offering the best knowledge and investment conditions about the local economy, with special focus on the new opportunities in the current environment which is completely different.
The envoy noted that Qatar and Italy are experiencing a very good moment. Political and economic relations are growing and strengthening steadily.
'We just had the visit of the Italian Prime Minister (Paolo Gentiloni) to Qatar few weeks ago. In addition, we also had the visit of three important cabinet ministers—minister of foreign affairs, minister of transport, and minister of defense—last months, which speak volumes about the bilateral ties, said Salzano.
Commenting on the economic relations he said that its growing fast, and cited example of last week's strategic cooperation between Qatar Petroleum and Eni, an Italian energy giant, who jointly acquired 85 percent stake in the contractors interest under the exploration and production sharing agreement (EPSA) for Block 52 in offshore Oman.
Pasquale Salzano, Ambassador of Italy to Qatar also mentioned about Rossito Marino, yet another important Italian company (serving in oil & gas sector), which opened its first branch in Doha last Thursday.
Bilateral trade volume between Qatar and Italy touched $2bn (QR7.28bn) last year, which he referred as 'an important achievement. However, he stressed that there is still scope to expand economic cooperation, especially in the field of agriculture, food, food processing and manufacturing industries.
'There is a great scope for Italian companies to establish food processing units in Qatar to contribute in the country's efforts to achieving food security, noted the Italian Envoy.
Commenting on other promising sectors of bilateral cooperation he said that tourism is very important industry, both for Italy and Qatar. He noted that a lot of Qatari citizens and residents visit Italy every year, but the number of Italians visiting Qatar can also be increased.
'Qatar has a lot to offer. But not many people in Italy are well aware about it… I would also like to see more Italians visiting to Qatar, Salzano said.
He pointed out that civil aviation is one of the several promising areas of growing cooperation. Qatar Airways, which has direct flights to Italy's four major destinations (Rome, Milan, Pisa, and Venice), has recently acquired 49 percent stake in Meridiana, one of Italy's major airlines, will start harnessing benefits from the huge growth potential.
Asked about SMEs sector, he added that Italian SMEs are world renewed, and they have a lot to offer. 'Italy is the second largest manufacturing hub in Europe after Germany. We have over 150,000 SMEs, which are the backbone of the Italian economy.
He also said that with the steps taken by Qatar's visionary leadership for economic reforms such as new legislation with regard to labour laws, creating more favourable conditions for investments, and the will surely attract more SMEs from around the world, including Italy.
The Peninsula Qatar