Qatar and Australia have witnessed substantial levels of improvement in their bilateral relations, further boosting trade, investment, and cultural co-operation, Australian ambassador Dr Axel Wabenhorst has said.
The envoy was highlighting the strong ties and continuously growing ties between the two countries to mark the Australia Day in Doha on Wednesday.
“The trade volume is AUD1.815bn, which is the total of two-way trade in both goods and services in the 12 months, from July 2017 to June 2018,” Dr Wabenhorst told Gulf Times.
He said that Australia’s major exports to Qatar include meat and livestock, and alumina, while Qatar’s major exports to Australia include fertilisers and aluminium. Merchandise trade increased 11% over the previous year.
The Australian embassy has been working hard to develop links in the trade, investment and cultural fields, as well as encouraging Qataris to visit Australia for tourism, education and commercial purposes, Dr Wabenhorst stressed.
He noted that approximately 1,000 Qataris visit Australia annually for business and tourism and the number of tourists continue to increase. Qatar Airways also became only the second non-Australian airline to fly to Canberra from February 2018.
According to Dr Wabenhorst, the most popular destinations are the major cities and the Gold Coast, which have been attractive for Qatari families for shopping and due to the high quality restaurants and the presence of mosques.
“Australia’s cities are no further from Qatar than the eastern US. In the Qatari summer, it is winter in Australia,” he said.
Australia also sees Qatar as an attractive trading partner and source of foreign investment, and is keen for further co-operation with the latter in trade and investment.
Dr Wabenhorst said Australia, a major food producer and expert in dryland farming, can help Qatar in its self-sufficiency efforts as the latter placed an increasing priority on food security.
“There are currently many investment opportunities in Australia, including in infrastructure (roads, railways, airports) in the major cities and in northern part,” he said. “Qatar has significant investments in Australia, particularly in agriculture, energy infrastructure and prestige real estate.”
An attractive investment destination, Australia is the world’s 13th largest economy and rated at the highest level (AAA) by the three global rating agencies. It has had 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth and has the highest average GDP growth forecast among major advanced economies over the next five years.
“Australia is politically stable and has a transparent regulatory system. It is a leading producer of minerals and agricultural products, and has strengths in finance, education and tourism,” the envoy said.
“Australia’s workforce is one of the most educated, multicultural and multilingual in the world. It is a good base for companies doing business with Asia,” he added.
In the cultural field, Dr Wabenhorst said the Australian musical group, Directors of the South Australian Museum, and the National Gallery of Australia have all visited Qatar.
The embassy, he added, also hosted an exhibition of the finest opals from the South Australian Museum and organised an exhibition of artworks from the Canning Stock Route (Yuwara Kuju).
“This is a strong basis on which to continue cultural co-operation,” the envoy stressed.
The embassy is also working on a number of mutual visits, particularly in the field of agriculture, as well as other senior-level visits.
Dr Wabenhorst said some memorandums of understanding (MoUs) are also being prepared, and he hopes a good progress between the two countries can be made in the near future.
He noted that Australia’s Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources visited Qatar in May 2018, citing many other visits in both directions: in agriculture, commerce, investment and student study groups.
The embassy is currently exploring the possibility of high level visits or meetings between the two countries.
Dr Wabenhorst cited the two countries’ strong relations in defence and security, and disclosed that some Qatari officer cadets are studying in Australia.