Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Economy
On 9 to 10 May, I undertook a two-day overseas visit to Qatar. The primary focus of this visit was on developing economic links between our two countries.
We believe in engaging with countries that do not always share our values on human rights, LGBTQ+ rights, workers’ rights and political and religious freedom. Engaging with countries is an opportunity to develop a platform for further discussion, to raise awareness and to potentially influence a change in approach.
Trade missions and overseas visits provide such a platform to discuss our values as part of our wider work around developing international relations, our work on economic development and our ambitions as a globally responsible nation. Through this engagement we seek to engage constructively and set out Wales’ approach and how we can work together.
This visit provided an opportunity to discuss our values with Qatari organisations and I had an opportunity to raise human rights in the context of the World Cup. I expressed the need for all fans to feel welcome at this globally important event which has the potential to shine a light on critical human rights issues.
On the first day, I hosted a business round table for the Wales-based companies who were taking part in a trade mission to Qatar. This was an opportunity for me to meet the companies, understand their aspirations for the trade mission and the support that they had been given by the Welsh Government to achieve these objectives. It was also a chance to hear directly about their experiences of doing business in Qatar and understand the opportunities and challenges that they face. This was a multi-sector trade mission delivered as part of the implementation of our Export Action Plan for Wales and I was pleased to see representatives from across a variety of sectors, including food and drink, manufacturing, and training and education services.
The roundtable was also an opportunity to learn about what practical support exporters would like to make it easier to do business in Qatar, with some citing that the reinstatement of the Cardiff-Doha airlink could be a positive step. This was helpful in informing discussions with Qatar Airways and Cardiff Airport that I held later during my visit. The purpose of my meeting with Qatar Airways' Group Chief Executive was to discuss the resumption of the airline's Doha - Cardiff service and to reinforce the relationship which had been blossoming prior to Covid. The discussion was productive with further actions to be developed.
I met with the Qatar Free Zone Authority (QFZA), an organisation which helps overseas investors to set up in Qatar, to strengthen economic links between Qatar and Wales. This was an opportunity to understand how the QFZA can support overseas investors, including those from Wales, to expand their business by setting up in Qatar. I also used the meeting to discuss the upcoming announcement on UK Freeports and we talked about how the QFZA can work with freeports in Wales.
I met with Qatar University’s School of Medicine to learn about its partnership with Cardiff University and its plans to strengthen links with Wales through collaboration with other Welsh universities.
I received an update from the British Embassy in Doha on the UK government’s plans for the FIFA World Cup and met with the organisation responsible for the delivery of the World Cup, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL), to learn more about its plans and how it intends to ensure a welcome for all fans who are travelling to Qatar later this year.
Finally, I hosted a networking reception for the Qatar business community, the Welsh companies taking part in the trade mission, Welsh diaspora in Qatar and people with links to Wales. Overall, the visit was an opportunity to promote Wales and highlight the positive business relationship between our two countries, supporting the wider objectives of our International Strategy.