Top officials of Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA), including Hussein Al Fardan, First Deputy to the Chairman, and Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Thani Al Thani, Second Deputy to the Chairman of QBA, held meetings with senior representatives of the French economy from the public and private sectors, in Paris during the last two days.
During the meetings both side discussed and explored business and investment opportunities in several promising sectors, including health, pharmaceuticals, food, industries, laboratory industries, shipping, transport, logistics and other areas which are of great importance for the Qatari economy.
Other members of the QBA delegation to Europe, who attended the meeting included Issa Abu Issa, Secretary General, and Board Members Sheikh Hamad bin Faisal Al Thani, Sheikh Nawaf bin Nasser Al Thani, and Sherida Al Kaabi, and from QBA Members Saud Al Manea, Salah Al Jaidah and Sarah Abdullah, Deputy General Manager of the QBA.
Benjamin Griveaux, French Junior Economy Minister, praised the strong relations between Paris and Doha, pointing out that the French government has introduced new measures aimed at attracting financial service industries in many countries around the world to locate in Paris as the largest financial hub in Europe. These measures include, according to the Minister, tax incentives by abolishing the increase of fees on financial transactions in 2018, reducing corporate tax from 33 percent to 22 percent, fixing capital gains tax at 30 percent and lowering income tax on higher wage brackets.
“Today’s actions are an important gesture for investors,” Griveaux said. He also invited Qatari businessmen to invest in his country. He added that France graduates 38,000 engineers annually and has about 9 researchers per 1,000 workers. His country focuses on the new economic fields by investing about 5 percent of the French budget in research and studies.
During his opening remarks, Hussein Al Fardan, stressed the importance of the visit to Paris and the meeting with Griveaux, as an innovative platform for future economic partnerships. He added that the meeting complements the strategies of both sides to diversify their economies and develop their capabilities in new industries. The Qatari delegation is comprised of diverse economic groups looking for effective partnerships that benefit the economies of both countries. He also stated that the Qatari economy continues to diversify under the National Development Strategy 2017 – 2022 and the Qatar National Vision 2030. He noted that Doha is attracting foreign investors and has encouraged hundreds of business delegations to visit Doha in the past few months.
Sheikh Khalid bin Thani Al Thani pointed out that cooperation between the French and Qatari private sectors will benefit the economies of the two countries. He explained that the exchange of experiences and the promotion of cooperation and joint coordination in new and innovative sectors will help both sides move forward with their strategic development plans. He noted the broad prospects of cooperation in the areas of smart cities, science, medical care, health technology, industry, blockchain and other fields of innovative technology.
Sheikh Khalid said that Qatar is interested in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in France to use Qatar’s Free Zones as their base for local and regional markets. He also praised the recent decision of the Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to offer multiple incentives to the foreign investors in the Free Zones. Sheikh Hamad bin Faisal Al Thani said that Qatar is ready to welcome French companies as a regional hub for Arab and Asian markets.
He pointed out that the Free Zones and the measures taken by the Emir for the benefit of the foreign investors will speed up and facilitate investments by French companies. He said that Qatar’s geographic location, with the largest port in the region and a global logistics fleet will facilitate access to neighboring markets, especially Iraq, Yemen and other Asian countries.
He also said that the Qatari business community and QBA will work to find effective partnerships to further develop the distinguished relations between Qatar and France and elevate them to the next level.
The first session started with a discussion about investment in France, with the French side presenting France’s investment environment, with France being the premier European country for SMEs, and the second largest European economy and sixth largest economy in the world, and third largest in terms of attracting foreign investment.
Michel Gilbard, Director of the Enterprise and Strategic Projects Department at the French Ministry of Economy, said that Qatar is the first Arab and Gulf investor in Paris, attracting €1.75bn in 2016. Qatar’s investments include retail, tourism, sports, industry and other private sector investments. The French Ministry of Economy also pointed out the sectors on which it will focus in the French economy’s future, inviting Qatari companies to invest in them, such as aircraft, health, food, renewable energy, automotive, technology and chemical industries.
The second session was devoted to the cooperation between Qatari businessmen and their French counterparts in the fields of health, offering excellent medical facilities with different medical specialties to meet the needs of patients in Qatar and the region.
French companies offer a wide range of activities through “LEEM”, which brings together specialists in the fields of pharmacy, and they confirmed the depth of their partnerships with hospitals and medical centers in Qatar. Also French companies discussed investments in factories in Doha, especially after the value-added incentives provided by Qatari law for industrial investments.
The French companies highlighted in their presentations the latest innovations and technical expertise that will meet the growing demands of the rapidly growing local market. Among the specialties highlighted were the manufacture of medical equipment. Orange Medical Services, AOS, Dussie, Biogran, Acapium and Group Innovative Player also introduced their latest medical innovations and are in advanced negotiations with many private and public institutions in Qatar. The specialists in these companies indicated that the Qatari medical market is a promising one with the potential for $1bn worth of investment.
The QBA delegation also met on the sidelines of a dinner organized by the Association for the Benefit of French Businessmen, with Guillaume Pepy, Chairman of the French Qatari Committee in MEDEF, confirming the organisation’s support for Qatar. He added that the organisation will intensify visits between the two countries’ businessmen to promote value-added industries in Qatar.
Issa Abdul Salam Abu Issa, QBA Secretary-General, gave a presentation on Qatar during the blockade. He pointed out that the financial situation of Qatar is stable, that Qatar has maintained high international credit ratings, and that the Qatari economy will be stronger after the crisis due to the continuation of the policy of economic openness and opportunities attracting foreign investors. He also noted that Qatar has huge financial resources and reserves of more than $300bn, and that Qatar Central Bank played a vital role in maintaining the stability of Qatar’s financial sector during the first months of the crisis.
He said that Qatar has maintained private sector growth at 4.6 percent, which is better than the countries implementing the blockade, and noted Qatar has announced increasing exports of liquefied natural gas to 100 million tonnes per annum.
Along with Ambassador Khalid Al Mansouri, the delegation visited the international market Rungis. The delegation was briefed on how the world’s largest market for fresh produce operates, how the refrigerants operate in preparation for distribution in the domestic market, and the approved mechanisms for export.
Minister of State, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne welcomed the QBA delegation and said in a press statement that the French government is happy with the Qatari investments in France, adding that Paris Saint-Germain is a positive image for Qatari investments abroad. He added that Qatar is a strong partner of France in the region, and Paris is the right place for Qatari investments. He also highlighted that his country especially welcomes investment in FrenchSMEs and that the French government has introduced a law encouraging this type of investment, indicating that the Qatari investor is prestigious and welcomed in France.
Sheikh Nawaf bin Nasser Al-Thani, Chairman of the French Qatari Business Council, said that French institutions have demonstrated their superiority in a number of fields, making them prominent in the Qatari market in many sectors such as aerospace, navigation, water treatment, construction, education and others. He assured that France will remain a focal point for Qatari businessmen, noting that the French financial sector is an ideal model and the French hold leadership positions in the World Bank and other leading financial and banking institutions in the world
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