The visit of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to Spain has opened a new phase in the economic relations between the two countries and enabled them to advance towards strategic partnership in light of the two countries' keenness to sign agreements and MoU covering a number of vital economic sectors. In the context of strengthening their economic relations in recent years, the two countries have been able to expand and build a fruitful and diversified cooperation that includes investments, clean energy, tourism, aviation, real estate and others, making Spain one of the important economic partners of Qatar.
This was reinforced by the agreement on exempting holders of diplomatic, special and service passports from visa requirements, which was signed between the two countries and entered into force on Nov 12, 2021. This agreement grants the holders of these passports freedom of movement between the two countries and increase investments and opportunities for bilateral co-operation. Last year, the exchange between Spain and Qatar reached a total value of more than 1bn euros, achieving a remarkable growth of 44.3 % compared to 2020. The two countries hope to enhance the trade movement between them in the coming years.
Today, Qatar occupies an advanced position among the Arab countries investing in Spain, with investments reaching more than 21bn euros.Qatar Investment Authority is also the second largest shareholder in the Spanish Stock Exchange. Qatari investments are characterised by being long-term, which makes the economic partnership between the two countries strategic. It is also distinguished by its diversity, as it includes different sectors and giant Spanish companies.
The data showed that Qatar has strong stakes in strategic sectors such as the aviation sector, as Qatar Airways owns a significant proportion of the property rights of the International Airlines Group IAG, as well as shares in Colonial, which works in the field of construction, Corte Ingles, which works in the field of distribution and services, Brezza, which is active in the telecommunications sector, and Iberdrola, which is one of the world's leading multinational groups in the energy sector.
Qatar is one of the main suppliers of natural gas. It is the second largest supplier of gas to Spain, and provides up to 12 % of the total Spanish imports of this clean energy. On the other hand, Spanish investments in Qatar amounted to 80mn euros in 2019. More than 209 Spanish companies operate in the Qatari market in construction, infrastructure, information technology, energy, water or facilities management and other service providers. For example, Iberdrola established its headquarters in Qatar for the purpose of research investments in the Middle East. Ferrovial, a Spanish multinational company, works in infrastructure services in Qatar through its FMM branch.
Acciona, a Spanish multinational company, is working in the field of infrastructure development and management and renewable energy by building two desalination plants in Qatar, while Aguas de Valencia, which opened its branch in Doha in 2015, participates in many projects related to water management. Recently, QatarEnergy announced that a major contract for engineering, procurement and construction works for the North Field Expansion Project was won by a consortium that includes Spanish company Tecnicas Reunidas, which is working on several projects in the country.
HE the Chairman of Qatar Chamber Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani said that the private sector in Qatar has a number of investments, including stakes in Colonial, Marina Port Tarraco, the W Hotel in Barcelona, the Intercontinental Hotel in Madrid, and other sectors, and it is preparing for a new phase of partnership in the coming years. In a statement to Qatar News Agency (QNA), HE the Chairman of Qatar Chamber said that the visit of the Amir will inaugurate a new phase of co-operation between the two countries in various fields.
He pointed out that the private sector in Qatar and Spain will benefit from this co-operation in building partnerships and alliances that contribute to promoting trade exchange between the two countries, which has achieved remarkable growth in recent years, noting that the Qatari private sector has a strong desire to enhance co-operation and study investment opportunities available in Spain.
He added that Qatar Chamber supports the establishment of alliances and partnerships between Qatari and Spanish companies in a way that enhances trade exchange between the two countries and increases opportunities for establishing joint investments, whether in Qatar or Spain, pointing to the presence of large Spanish companies operating in various sectors in the Qatari market, most notably trade, contracting, services, furniture, and consultancy.
To enhance co-operation and partnership between the private sector in the two countries, Qatari Businessmen Association signed a MoU with the Spanish Businessmen Federation CEOE to launch the joint Qatari Spanish Business Council during a meeting held in January 2021.
The MoU came as part of the association's efforts to communicate with its fellow economic institutions around the world in order to discuss opportunities for economic cooperation during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, to consolidate relations with global economic institutions, and to discuss proposed solutions to support private sector companies and institutions.
Commenting on this partnership, HE the Chairman of Qatari Businessmen Association Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani told QNA that the country is a strategic partner for Spain, which is confirmed by the growing co-operation in the energy, trade and investment sectors between the two countries, such as the stock market, tourism, construction, communications, and others. He added that they in the association seek, through these high-level visits, to increase co-operation with the Spanish private sector, especially in light of the presence of many Spanish companies operating in Qatar.
In a similar statement to QNA, HE Chairman of the joint Qatari Spanish Business Council Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Thani al-Thani said that they in Qatar highly value their economic partners around the world. He added that they view the Spanish market as a market full of economic opportunities in various sectors, stressing that they keen to establish the joint Qatari Spanish Business Council.
He also added that despite the negative impact of the pandemic on its activation, they are currently working with their partners in the Spanish Businessmen Federation CEOE to organise several events in the coming period. To facilitate the growing trade and investment movement, the two countries were keen to develop co-operation in the field of air transport, as Qatar Airways currently operates more than 20 weekly flights to different Spanish cities.
In April 2017, Qatar Airways entered into a codeshare agreement with Iberia, the largest Spanish airline, to provide passengers with more options for flights and destinations in Spain and Portugal. The agreement, which was signed thanks to the presence of the two carriers in the Oneworld Alliance, entered into force as of April 3, 2017. In early 2021, Qatar Airways announced the development of this strategic partnership with Iberia Airlines to enhance the travel options offered by the two carriers to passengers on board, which improves cooperation in the trade, tourism and travel sectors between the two countries.
In light of this remarkable development in the economic relations of Qatar and the Kingdom of Spain, the two countries are now looking towards a new phase of economic co-operation in various sectors, in a way that meets the development aspirations of both countries.(QNA