Posted on November 25, 2017

Commercial Bank Group CEO Joseph Abraham highlighted the untapped opportunities for ASEAN exports to Qatar during his keynote address at the ASEAN seminar on trade and investment. The first ever Association of  Southeast  Asian Nations (Asean) seminar was organised to provide a window  to the economic and investment potentials of the seven member countries and enhance business relations with Qatar.

The seminar was held as part of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of Asean. The seven Asean members including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei promoting their business, food and culture during the celebrations. Abraham noted the existing strong links between Qatar and the ASEAN nations, with ASEAN being one of Qatar’s largest trading partners with Qatari exports totaling over $8.2 billion in 2016, sizeable ASEAN expatriate populations in Qatar, numerous Qatari investments in the region such as the Nebras gas-fired power plant in Indonesia, and excellent connectivity with ASEAN through Hamad International Airport and Hamad Port.

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Abraham stated that for every dollar of Qatari exports to ASEAN, Qatar only imports 23 cents of goods, and this trade ratio of almost 1:4 represented an untapped opportunity for ASEAN nations. The economic blockade has boosted the growth potential for key ASEAN exports to Qatar including Halal food, agricultural, paper and construction products, together with electrical goods. Abraham stressed however, that ASEAN also has highly developed service sectors that can offer a lot to Qatar. Singapore and Malaysia have top-ranking universities, providing an alternative to Qataris travelling to Europe or the US for further study. Malaysia and Thailand are among Qatar’s favourite tourism destinations, and Singapore’s healthcare is recognised as one of the best in the world in catering for health tourists. Singapore is also home to three of the world’s one hundred largest architecture firms.

On Qatar’s journey towards economic diversification, Abraham pointed out that there are a wide range of opportunities for ASEAN countries to participate in Qatar’s private sector under the National Development Strategy 2017-2022, with government-led incentives to invest and billions of dollars earmarked for projects in education, health, logistics, industry, sports, food and tourism, as well as construction. To close, Abraham stated that the potential increase in ASEAN exports to Qatar could be realized through raising awareness, and he encouraged active engagement between the Qatari and ASEAN business communities though targeted communications, mutual trade delegations and communications highlighting the existing opportunities.