The Qatar-Australia trade and economic relations have tremendous scope to grow beyond the traditional commodities, especially into new economies such as fintechs in view of the strong complementarities between the countries, according to Australian envoy.
“There is plenty to be optimistic about. There are strong complementarities already in place between Australia and Qatar. There is plenty of scope to explore newer areas of opportunities, most obvious being the new economies,” Australia’s ambassador Jonathan Muir told a recently held webinar ‘An Exploration of Australia-Qatar Tech Future’, which aimed at equipping Australia and Qatar-based startups with an overview of their respective markets, their challenges and opportunities.
Stressing that Qatar has a sizeable market and one should not overlook its value and role as a global hub; he said the co-operation should be in areas where Australia has globally recognised strengths, while Qatar has robust infrastructure facilities.
Doha has been supporting startups and mature technological companies through the Qatar Fintech Hub, which already has received more than 750 applications for establishing their operations in the country. One among the early-stage fintech companies for the incubator is Australia’s Da Vinci+.
Quoting the Australian Board of Statistics, Muir told the webinar that Australia’s annual two-way goods and services trade with Qatar has remained strong despite the global pandemic at QR5.2bn (A$2.08bn).
Muir said the trade and economic relations between the two countries have rather been dominated by traditional commodities.
Qatar has retained its place as Australia’s second largest trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region. Australia remained Qatar’s twelfth largest source of merchandise imports.
The overall balance of trade registered a QR510mn (A$204mn) surplus in Qatar’s favour. Qatar’s services exports to Australia increased by 5.5% to QR2.03bn (A$812mn).
“Qatar’s strength in aviation services has played an important role in keeping Australian exporters connected with global markets,” he had said recently.
There is also strong collaboration in science and technology research and innovation between the two countries, Muir said, adding more than 24 Australian universities have undertaken joint projects with the Qatari institutions in the recent years, including an agreement inked past year between Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) and Curtin University.
In May 2020, the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), part of HBKU, inked a pact with Curtin University in Australia to combine efforts on addressing corrosion issues in the oil and gas industry.
Under the agreement, researchers, scientists, and engineers from the QEERI Corrosion Center and Curtin Corrosion Center would join forces to tackle some of the most severe and reoccurring corrosion and material challenges faced by the industry in Qatar and Australia.
“I can also flag there are major investments and joint collaborative projects in the pipeline to tackle diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases,” he said.
Qatar’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education has already approved 20 Australian universities for online degrees, and there are 33 Australian universities approved for Qatari government scholarships.
Around 30 Australian companies operate in Qatar, with the biggest belonging to the engineering and construction sector. They participate in big projects, including in the construction of Hamad Port, Doha Metro, World Cup stadiums and in servicing the hydrocarbon sector.