EghtesadOnline: Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Towar Al Kuwari, vice chairman of Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, met with members of a visiting trade delegation from Iran on Thursday.
Led by Yadollah Rahmani, deputy governor of Fars Province for economic affairs and resource development, the Iranian delegation is also attended by Mohammad Sadiq Humaidian, vice president of Shiraz Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, among others.
Both sides explored business opportunities and discussed ways of expanding the bilateral trade and economic cooperation, which has witnessed fast growth over the past several months, Qatari newspaper The Peninsula reported.
Iran has been ramping up exports to Qatar since a number of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia abruptly severed diplomatic relations with Doha early June and imposed a blockade on the Persian Gulf country, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups. The Qatari government has denied the accusation, blasting the blockade as unjustified and a violation of international law, Financial Tribune reported.
2.5% Rise in Bilateral Trade
Iran’s trade with Qatar totaled $250 million in the last Iranian year (ended March 20), registering an increase of 2.5% compared with the year before, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture Ali Akbar Mehrfar said during the sixth edition of Qatar International Agricultural Exhibition, known as AgriteQ 2018 last month.
The event held at Doha’s Exhibition and Convention Center with over 313 exhibitors from at least 36 countries concluded on March 22, IRNA reported.
Fifteen Iranian companies from the provinces of Tehran, Hormozgan and Bushehr participated in the expo, which indicate a fivefold increase compared to the previous edition of the expo.
A wide range of food products and agricultural technologies were showcased at the event.
Qatari Minister of Municipality and Environment Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al Rumaihi said AgriteQ aimed to promote the national agricultural sector and diversify the economy, increase self-sufficiency in food production and domestic production capacities and reduce the country’s dependency on imported products in line with Qatar National Vision 2030, according to Marhaba.qa.
Saudi-Led Blockade Pushing Qatar Closer to Iran
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said in September 2017 that the Saudi-led economic blockade on Qatar is pushing it closer to Iran economically.
“They (Saudi Arabia and its allies) said Qatar was now closer to Iran. By their measures, they are pushing Qatar to Iran,” he was quoted as saying in Paris.
Turkey, Iran and Qatar recently signed a transportation pact for boosting trilateral trade. Turkey’s Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci and his Qatari counterpart Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani were in the Iranian capital Tehran in November to sign the agreement with Iran’s Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari.
Under the agreement, Iran will be the transit country between Turkey and Qatar. The deal is expected to help accelerate commodity delivery and facilitate trade.
“Iran is playing an important role in the transport of goods from Turkey and Azerbaijan to Qatar,” said the Qatari minister in a meeting with Shariatmadari.
According to Mohammed bin Mahdi Al Ahbabi, a board member of Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the land route between Turkey and Qatar via Iran reduces the cost of transport of goods by about 80% compared to air cargo.
Turkey’s Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci said last month that Ankara will accelerate efforts to facilitate transit through Iran, especially to increase trade with Qatar.
Chairman of Shiraz Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Jamal Razeqi Jahromi believes Iran has lagged behind Turkey in seizing opportunities in the Qatari market after the Arab embargo.
The Shiraz chamber is in charge of Iran’s exports to Qatar as well as to Syria, Iraq and Russia.
“Iran’s exports to Qatar have faced a lot of problems such as high transport costs, high end prices of domestic products, unprofessional business approaches, among others,” he said.
Jahromi stressed that Iran can increase its non-oil exports to Qatar, especially cast iron, metal, steel, organic chemical compounds, plaster, lime, cement, dairy products and other food products.
Meanwhile, Iran is in early talks with Qatar to take on some of the hosting duties of FIFA World Cup 2022, for which Qatar has been selected as the host country.
Though Qatar promised to build 100,000 hotel rooms by 2022, it will struggle to reach 45,000.
The Iranian islands of Kish and Qeshm in the Persian Gulf have plenty of hotels that could accommodate fans.
Replacement for Dubai
Amid tensions in political relations between Iran and the UAE along with Persian Gulf state’s pressure on Iranian traders, mostly over value-added tax, visa issuance and banking limitations, Iran is working to curb its trade ties with the UAE, replacing its traditional hub for trade activities, Dubai, with Qatar and Oman.
Banking, however, seems to be still an issue for Iranian traders moving to Qatar.
To address the issue, CBI has recently permitted Iranian banks to purchase Qatari rial from traders.
“After several meetings held by traders, exporters and representatives of the Central Bank of Iran, Bank Saderat and Bank Melli Iran, the process of transferring hard currency resulting from exports to Qatar into the country was streamlined,” said Deputy Industries Minister Mojtaba Khosrotaj who also doubles as chairman of Trade Promotion Organization of Iran.
As of Jan. 28, a day after CBI made the first purchase deal, Bank Saderat changed its base purchase price to the price announced by the regulator.
A group of Iranian lenders have also managed to establish banking relations with major Qatari lenders.
The recent establishment of Iran-Qatar Chamber of Commerce back in February is also expected to have a significant impact on cementing ties, as the lack of a single body for holding economic negotiations with the Persian Gulf state has disrupted mutual business engagement between Iranian and Qatari traders.
The joint chamber is set to help channelize Iranian firms’ presence and minimize destructive competition between Iranian traders in the Qatari market.