The UK and Qatar share a history that goes back almost 200 years. This gives us the strongest possible basis for partnership, and we are working closely with government, business and non-governmental institutions as Qatar implements its National Vision 2030. This includes cooperation on infrastructure projects worth $200bn as Qatar prepares for the 2022 FIFA World Cup; on health care, education and culture; on the energy sector; and on financial and advisory services.
The UK is globally committed to peace, security, prosperity and development. The extent of this commitment is unique. We give 0.7% of our gross national income to overseas aid. We spend 2% of our GDP on defence. No other member of the G20 meets both those targets.
Our economy, the fifth-largest in the world, has been growing at a faster rate than other advanced economies, and 900,000 more businesses are operating in the UK than were five years ago. Our car production has hit a 10-year high. Our employment rate is at its highest since records began.
The UK remains the top European destination for foreign direct investment and is the financial technology hub of Europe. There are now over 3000 companies in East London’s Tech City. Four of the 10 European start-ups already worth £1bn are in the UK. Furthermore, the internet accounts for a higher proportion of the UK’s economy than any other G20 member.
The fall in global energy prices will – as elsewhere – have an impact on Qatar’s economy; however, Qatar is well placed to respond. If we can continue to be competitive, flexible and proactive, maintaining our position as Qatar’s leading European trading partner, then we can achieve an increased volume of bilateral annual trade beyond £5bn. I am confident that economic cooperation between Qatar and the UK can continue to grow.
Our trading relationship with Qatar is not limited to what the UK is doing in Qatar. We currently import around one-fifth of our gas from Qatar; and Qatar – alongside others – has invested £1bn in a liquefied natural gas terminal in Wales. Beyond the energy sector, Qatar has invested in real estate, retail, the hospitality sector and British companies. Two of the most iconic London buildings, Harrods in Knightsbridge and the Shard in the City are both owned by Qatar. Looking ahead, we would like the UK to continue to be the number one investment destination for Qatar, and for Qatar to add significantly to the £30bn it already has invested in the UK. In addition to a shared interest in prosperity, we possess a shared interest in security.
Qatar’s security cannot be separated from the UK’s. I am delighted that there is strong cooperation between our governments, agencies and industry on tackling threats from cybersecurity to airport security, as well as on the challenges of hosting major sporting events. However, our cooperation cannot stand still; it needs to evolve and develop, just as the threats we face do. I am glad that through UK military personnel and the UK defence industry we are supporting the development of Qatar’s defence capacity and capability. The more capable Qatar becomes, the better it is for our strategic defence partnership. The security of both the UK and Qatar is linked to regional security and stability.
We need to continue to work together to combat the threat from Daesh both militarily and idealogically and to support resolutions in Syria and Yemen, as well as stability in Libya. Furthermore, we must continue implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal without allowing Iran a free hand to interfere in the region. Given our shared vision on prosperity, security and stability, I would like the UK and Qatar to deepen bilateral ties.
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