EghtesadOnline: The first day of the sixth meeting of Iran-Qatar Economic Commission was held on Sunday in Doha where economic and business experts from the two countries surveyed issues of mutual interest.
The second and final day of the event hosting the two countries’ officials at the ministerial level is underway in the Qatari capital.
A 70-member Iranian delegation comprised of government officials, economic experts, businesspeople and merchants headed by Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari arrived in Doha on Sunday morning to take part in the event, IRNA reported.
Upon the mission’s arrival, Mohammad Reza Fayyaz, an advisor to the Iranian industries minister, who is also accompanying the Iranian delegation, said the two sides will be discussing ways of expanding cooperation in the fields of trade, mining, oil, petrochemicals, standards and banking in specialized committees, Financial Tribune reported.
The current session of the joint commission is being held after a 13-year gap.
Trade between Iran and Qatar hit $275 million during the last fiscal year (March 2017-18), marking a 137% increase compared with the year before. Iran’s exports to the Persian Gulf state reached $248 million to register a 140% growth.
Qatar has been drawing closer to Iran economically, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani had said earlier, after 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.
Currently, two southern ports of Bushehr and Lengeh account for the largest portion of goods sent from Iran to Qatar. However, Qatari officials seek stronger ties with all of the Iranian southern ports.
A delegation of high-ranking officials from Qatar Ports Management Company visited Iran’s southern ports last month, met their Iranian counterparts and toured Bushehr, Khorramshahr, Imam Khomeini and Shahid Rajaee ports.
Mohammad Al-Khanji, the director of Qatar Ports Management Company, told a press conference in Bushehr that Qatar plans to invest in the development of southern ports of Iran to help expand economic cooperation and increase bilateral trade.
“Qatar has long-term plans to increase trade ties with Iran and invest in its southern ports, which have an economic advantage for both countries … We firmly seek expansion of bilateral relations and nothing can change our strategic decision for expanding ties with Iran,” he said.
Last week, Ports and Maritime Bureau of Bushehr Province formed a special committee to address challenges hindering expansion of trade between Qatar and the Iranian province, Nourollah Asadi, the caretaker of the governmental body, said.
“As exporters to Qatar mainly encounter problems associated with sea transportation, the bureau has set up the committee that will hold regular meetings to address these challenges,” the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development’s news outlet quoted Asadi as saying last Monday.
Among all the southern ports of Iran, Negin Island Port in Bushehr offers the best opportunity for Qatari investors.
Negin is a small sedimentary natural island near Bushehr city in southern Iran. Authorities are planning to turn the island into a maritime hub through port construction.
The loading and unloading capacity of Bushehr Port, which is currently 7 million tons per annum, is expected to reach 15 million tons following the construction of three important projects on Negin Island.
The dredging project of the container berth of Negin Island to allow the docking of 50,000-ton vessels has recently begun with an initial investment of 210 billion rials ($5 million).
Asadi noted that with the completion of the development project on Negin Island in four months, Bushehr container loading and unloading capacity will increase to 600,000 TEUs.
This is twice its current capacity, making it the country’s second biggest container port after Shahid Rajaee Port in Hormozgan Province.
On an official trip to the southern province of Bushehr, President Hassan Rouhani in January 2015 launched the construction of a long-awaited seaport on Negin Island, as part of the Bushehr Port development project.
The director of Bushehr Port urged the Qatari delegation to invest on this island.