- Table of Contents
- Full Issue in PDF
- Trade Delegation to China Sees Opportunities, Challenges in the Clean-Energy Sector
- A Prosperous Trading Partner Looks for U.S. Products and Know-How
- Building a Prosperous and Sustainable Future for the Americas
- Short Takes
- Trade Calendar
- Featured Trade Event: Trade Mission to Iraq
A Prosperous Trading Partner Looks for U.S. Products and Know-How
Dao Le (fourth from left), senior commercial officer in Doha, Qatar, for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, with a Qatari business delegation in Washington, D.C., in December 2009. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
Qatar, a Middle Eastern country with nearly 1 million inhabitants, is a stop on a trade mission this month led by Francisco Sánchez, under secretary for international trade. According to Dao Le, senior commercial officer in Qatar for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, the country offers a vibrant, growing market that holds many opportunities for U.S. businesses.
On June 5–10, 2010, Francisco Sánchez, under secretary for international trade, will lead a trade mission to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Representatives from 11 U.S. businesses will participate. Recently, Doug Barry of the Trade Information Center spoke with Dao Le about opportunities for U.S. firms in this growing and prosperous market.
Le began his career with the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in 1994, with postings to several emerging markets in the Middle East, south Asia, and southeast Asia. He also has domestic experience as director of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Le has been at the U.S. embassy in Doha, Qatar, since 2008.
Barry: What’s it like in Doha today?
Le: Cranes moving and a lot of vibrancy and activity. This city is a fascinating place that is growing at a very rapid clip.
Barry: The architecture is an eclectic mix. Many of the buildings are brand new and ultramodern looking.
Le: Yes. You find that some countries have visionary leadership but lack the resources, while other countries have tremendous resources but no vision. Qatar has both. Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who is the head of the country, knows exactly where he wants to take Qatar, and he has the resources to achieve it. The Qataris have a national vision for 2030. They want to be a financial hub, a sports capital, an education capital, and also a medical tourism capital. The way they are doing that is through the adoption of U.S. technology and know-how. So when you look at the architecture in Qatar—for example, the new Doha International Airport—that’s being done by a U.S. firm, Bechtel. If you look at the world’s largest causeway—the Qatar–Bahrain causeway—the program management is being done by another U.S. firm, Kellogg Brown & Root.
For More Information
Qatar’s commercial ties have been expanding at a rapid pace, with trade volumes growing by more than 387 percent during the past five years—from $841 million in 2004 to $3.2 billion in 2009. During the same period, U.S. exports to Qatar surged by 600 percent.The United States is Qatar’s largest trading partner and had a positive trade balance in 2009, posting $2.7 billion in exports.
For more information about doing business in Qatar, visit the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Qatar website. For more general information about exporting, or for information on how to contact the nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center, visit www.export.gov or call the Trade Information Center at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) (1-800-872-8723).
Barry: You visited the United States recently and brought with you a delegation of Qatari officials. What opportunities for U.S. companies arose from that visit?
Le: We met with representatives of about 100 U.S. firms and unveiled about two dozen infrastructure projects. They include Dohaland’s Heart of Doha project, which is a fascinating 35-hectare LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Gold Standard project. It is a blueprint for how all mixed end-use developments will look in this country. There is also Ashghal, which is the public works authority’s group of 20 or so projects that involves the construction of roads, bridges, and a network of expressways that will help Qatar achieve its goal of hosting the 2022 World Cup. These represent major market opportunities for U.S. firms and technology, because over the next five years, Qatar plans to spend about $20 billion on the design, construction, and operation of such things as highways, drainage systems, and government buildings. So it was a very timely visit, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to do it.
Barry: During your visit here with the Qatari delegation, did you encounter any negative reactions from Americans?
Le: People occasionally have negative perceptions about the Middle East. That is unfortunately based on images we sometimes see in the media. But what’s great about Qatar is that it is a country that is not interested in just building the tallest buildings in the world, but in creating systems—and adopting the best practices of the United States—to fit its vision of the future. That includes things that Americans can easily identify with, such as seeking a balance between the needs of a growing population and the country’s economic, social, and environmental resources. It also includes an interpretation of their religious tradition, based on the Koran, that allows for women’s empowerment and the elimination of all forms of subjugation of women.
Barry: I’ve heard that you are really quite an expert on sewer and waste disposal projects. What are the opportunities in this sector?
Le: Qatar has extremely limited water resources. It falls well below the World Bank’s water-poverty threshold of 1,000 cubic meters per capita. Most of Qatar’s water production comes from desalination, not rainfall, and clearly Qatar doesn’t have any lakes or rivers. So understanding that, what do Qataris have to do? The only way that they can go forward in such an environment is through the use of superior technology. This presents terrific opportunities for U.S. firms in areas such as desalination technologies and the treatment of sewage effluence. But U.S. companies need to get in front because it’s all about timing and prepositioning. The trade mission this month [to Saudi Arabia and Qatar] is a wonderful opportunity for U.S. firms to get involved in the Qatari market.
Barry: And when is the mission?
Le: The mission takes place June 5–10, and we are a follow-on stop after Saudi Arabia. U.S. firms have terrific offerings in terms of technologies and solutions. They just need to be exposed to this market and to learn more about it. They will then see that the opportunities in Qatar are limitless.
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