Moving Beyond Energy
06 Mar 01:19 AMSector : Energy Country : Qatar
By: Shingo Tsuda
Japanese companies got involved in the Qatari oil and steel sectors in the 1970’s. By the late 1980’s, Japan had launched the development of the first LNG (liquefied natural gas) project in Qatar even though the future of the LNG industry was still uncertain at that time. In the process of development, the Japanese Power company (Chubu Electric) made a long-term LNG Sales and Purchase Contract, and both the public and private sectors of Japan participated in the project by financing, investing, building the plants and shipping the product. Thus, Japan was one of the pioneers in the development of the LNG industries that has strengthened the ties between the two nations and resulted in attaining and maintaining excellent bilateral relations founded on mutual respect and trust.
Nowadays, Japan is Qatar's biggest trading partner, where the total volume of trade between the two countries reached $37 billion in 2012. Moreover, Qatar has been a major supplier of energy to Japan, and is our second largest LNG supplier, with a share of 18 percent, and total imports of about 16 mn tons of LNG in 2012, which is more than double the amount of 2011.
Qatar is highly regarded by the people and the Government of Japan for its generous contribution to the reconstruction of the severely affected areas hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Qatar was one of the first countries to extend help to Japan, and with the largest support in the world, as it provided reconstruction assistance of $100 mn along with additional supply of a huge amount of LNG and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas).
In recognition of promoting mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples, and under the joint project “Qatar Japan 2012,” the year 2012 witnessed celebrations of 40 years of diplomatic relations. About 50 events took place in both countries in multiple areas such as diplomacy, economy, culture, education, science and technology, and sports.
Diversifying economic relations
I am genuinely impressed with the Qatar National Vision 2030 formulated through the initiative of H.H. the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani. It is a core document for structuring this nation, taking into consideration various crucial elements such as its limited geographical territory and population, abundance in natural resources, changes in international political and economic conditions, and other factors. The National Vision states that hydrocarbon resources will eventually run out, and hence massive efforts and emphasis are dedicated to education, culture, science and technology, and sports in Qatar. I believe that the most substantial element in this vision is Human Development.
With respect to economic diversification, the governments of Japan and Qatar have agreed, on a number of occasions, to diversify the economic relations between the two countries beyond energy.
It is expected for Qatar to play an important role in every domain, namely, foreign policy, economy, culture, education, sports and international conferences and so on, especially after the crowning of H.H. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as the Emir of Qatar following the abdication of the throne by H.H. The Father Emir who paved the way for the younger generation to efficiently achieve the goals set for the nation, of which the FIFA World Cup is one of them.
Following the coronation, on August 27 and 28, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Qatar for his second visit since 2007. At his recent visit he had talks with the Emir, H. H. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and that was the first official top-level meeting for the new Emir, with the exception of courtesy visits by other foreign leaders to congratulate him on the accession.
The talks emphasized the importance of diversifying the bilateral cooperation in order to explore new dimensions for the existing relationship between both countries.
The official talks held by Prime Minister Abe and other top Qatari leaders, including H.E. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, were a reflection of the leaderships' decision to take bilateral relations to a higher level.
Another landmark of the visit was the Prime Minister’s accompanying delegation of more than 180 Japanese businessmen, including around 50 CEOs, who attended the Japan-Qatar Business Forum that was held with the cooperation of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization), JOGMEC (Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation), and JCCME (Japan Cooperation Center or the Middle East). Around 650 Japanese and Qatari businessmen attended the Forum where Prime Minister Abe and H.E. Dr. Mohammed Saleh Al Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry, delivered the opening remarks.
Japanese companies are encouraged to actively take part in the large-scale infrastructure projects set towards the FIFA World Cup 2022, such as the railway, metro, stadiums, and other associated project.
Furthermore, there is also broad scope for cooperation in the area of science and technology to help Qatar develop its own industries, which would lead to creating additional employment opportunities. In the economic development area, Japanese companies have been inviting many Qatari technical and administrative staff to Japan under their training programs, which are a very effective framework to foster a qualified young generation that would be capable of taking charge of the future of Qatar.
At this important phase, I will be devoting myself not only to supporting the Japanese enterprises in Qatar for their projects which are scheduled ahead for the year 2022, but also to foster bilateral relationships in various domains such as culture, medical, agriculture, education and human resources development in order to boost the two countries’ friendship out of both the “hard” and the “soft” aspects.