Q: First, tell us a little about yourself and walk us through your background.
A: I graduated with Bachelor degree in Sociology from Qatar University in 1990, followed by a Master in Middle East Policies and a PhD in Economics from Britain. From 2002 until 2010, I worked at the Ministry of Finance and Economy in different departments and I held different titles. In 2010, I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the Medical Attaché in Germany for all of Europe except the UK. In 2016, I was promoted to Consul General and got assigned to the Consulate of Qatar in Houston.
Q: Tell us about the Consulate General of the State of Qatar in Houston. What parts of America are covered by the Consulate and what are the services it provides?
A: The Consulate General of the State of Qatar in Houston serves 11 states, including AL, CO, FL, GA, KS, LA, MS, NM, OK, TN, and TX. We provide the following services: issuing entry visas to the State of Qatar; legalizing all commercial invoices related to any shipments to the State of Qatar; the authentication of other civil documents such as birth certificates, school diplomas, marriage certificates, power of attorney, police clearance, and more; authenticating death certificates for diseased Qatari, renewing expired passports, issuing temporary travel documents in case of emergency for those who have lost their passports and for new born babies; helping all Qatari citizens who are in the city either for medical treatment or education or as medical escorts throughout their stay.
Q: What are some past, present, and future goals for Qatar’s relationship with the U.S.?
A: Diplomatic relations between our two countries began in 1972 after Qatar gained independence from the United Kingdom. Qatar has strong bilateral ties with the United States and works in close coordination on a wide range of regional and global issues. We support progress, stability and prosperity in the region.
The United States and Qatar have extensive economic ties. As the largest foreign investor in Qatar and the largest importer, the United States has established strong trade relations with Qatar, with more than 120 U.S. companies operating in the country. For example, the United States is one of the major equipment suppliers to the oil and gas industry in Qatar and American companies have played an important role in the development of the oil, gas, and petrochemical sector. U.S. exports to Qatar include aircraft, machinery, vehicles, optical and medical instruments, and agricultural products. U.S. imports from Qatar include LNG, aluminum, fertilizers, and sulfur. The United States and Qatar have signed a trade and investment framework agreement and host an annual Bilateral Economic and Investment Dialogue. Qatar announced a plan to invest $45 billion from its sovereign wealth fund in the United States by 2021. In 2016, it also announced the purchase of $21 billion in F-15 fighter jets and $18 billion in Boeing commercial aircrafts.
The United States and Qatar also cooperate on security in the Gulf region. Qatar hosts the U.S. Central Command forward headquarters and supports the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States military operations in the region. Qatar is a major departure point for air operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Education-wise, the United States welcomes hundreds of Qatari students each year and six major U.S. universities have branches in Qatar.
Q: Tell us about your perspective on ways that U.S.-Qatar cooperation may be furthered.
A: In July of this year, a bilateral memorandum of understanding was signed between the State of Qatar and the United States to combat the financing of terrorism, announced by His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani with his American counterpart Rex Tilerson. It was also announced that Qatar is the first country to sign the agreement with Washington to combat terrorism.
In my opinion, the United States’ decisive role in resolving the current Gulf crisis and continued support of the stability of the Gulf countries will play a major role in supporting U.S.- Qatari relations. This will also provide for continuing growth in trade relations and in education, culture, health, sports, and all other community activities.
Q: What are some big picture issues facing Qatar today?
A: The most important challenges facing Qatar under the Qatar National Vision 2030, launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani in 2008, are economic, social, human, and environmental development.
The economic development strategy of the Qatar National Vision 2030 consists of ensuring strong management of the national economy in order to develop a knowledge-based economy. On the social side, Qatar aims to achieve social development in the country by encouraging the pursuit of human values. The Qatari Government is also implementing social programs to create a sense of communication among members of society. Other government initiatives include promoting sports, the country’s cultural heritage, and communication among family members.
In order to have a sound and capable workforce, Qatar’s National Vision 2030 is highly concerned with human development, which is done through the development of education and health care and by increasing cultural awareness and employment opportunities. There is a strong focus on youth in this regard.
Rapid population growth and increased air pollution are all obstacles and challenges facing the environment in Qatar, which are embodied in the vision. Qatar has tried to address them through the use of sophisticated technology. Other strategies used by the government to achieve environmental development include environmental awareness campaigns and the promotion of urban growth.
Q: How is Qatar’s business community uniquely positioning itself to help Americans who are interested in doing business in the country?
A: Qatar will remain one of the most attractive markets for investors, with preferred investment opportunities in a number of key sectors. In a statement issued by the Ministry of Finance on the occasion of Qatar’s participation in the meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, “The government aims to support continued investment and stimulate private companies and international investors wishing to expand their activities in the region. Qatar’s budget deficit is expected to fall in the coming years and the economic outlook will continue to be positive.” Qatar and the United States have long enjoyed strong and valuable relations and Qatar’s participation in the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have given it the opportunity to strengthen the relationship with investors and U.S. partners, and highlight ways of joint cooperation. Discussions at IMF and World Bank meetings focused on the opportunities offered by the Qatari economy to investors and bilateral trade relations between the two countries. The delegation affirmed the continuity of the positive outlook on the Qatari economy.
For his part, H.E. Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud Al Thani, Governor of the Central Bank of Qatar, stressed that the blockade imposed on the Qatari economy is a problem. He added that the Qatar Central Bank has taken a number of tough and appropriate steps to ease the impact of the siege on the banks’ financial accounts by injecting liquidity and increasing deposits of the public sector. He also stressed that the precautionary indicators for the banking sector are still healthy.
Qatar is one of the largest trading partners of the United States in the Middle East, with an increase of 29% in imports in 2016. Recently, a new set of laws and regulations aimed at developing the business environment and improving the growth of the private sector have been launched in Qatar.
Q: Is there anything we have not discussed that you would like to mention?
A: I would like to mention that I am honored and privileged to represent my country in such a diverse and hospitable city like Houston. It has been a pleasure to work with and be a part of one of the largest Consular Corps in the United States.