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Qatar, Netherlands set to sign trade deals; LNG in focus

Gulf Times, Qatar

Qatar, Netherlands set to sign trade deals; LNG in focus

By Santhosh V Perumal

8 May, 2007

DOHA: Qatar and the Netherlands may soon sign investment protection as well as double taxation avoidance agreements as part of efforts to improve economic and political relations between them.

Both the countries are set to ink next month an agreement pertaining to economic, commercial and technical co-operation, according to Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade Frank Heemskerk.

The Netherlands is also seeking enhanced economic relations with Qatar, mainly in the areas of energy, infrastructure, healthcare and education, research and development.

“(Qatar’s) Prime Minister (HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani) will visit the Netherlands this fall and we hope to sign investment and protection agreements and also double taxation avoidance treaty,” Heemskerk, a former ABN Amro executive, told Gulf Times.

He said the signing of agreement was expected to take place next month when Deputy Premier and Energy Minister HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah visits Netherlands.
Bilateral trade between Qatar and the Netherlands hung in favour of the latter, whose exports jumped 50% to 220mn euros and imports (from Qatar) were up 52% to 20mn euros.

Referring to imports (to Netherlands), Heemskerk said it was an area that offered large potential, especially in the field of LNG since the Dutch country is the gateway to European markets.

“We are building four LNG terminals in Rotterdam and the harbours are big enough to accommodate Q-Max type of vessels,” Heemskerk said.

He said the storage of LNG could be interesting as Netherlands has empty gas fields where the gas could be stored in summer and sold in winter for better prices, thus offering Qatar a large scope for exports.

Asked about the free trade agreements (FTAs), which the European Union is pushing for with the GCC states, Heemskerk said such agreements should be based on the successful negotiation of WTO rounds.

“It is very important to achieve a breakthrough in the WTO round and therefore the regional FTAs should be based on WTO,” he said. “May be this summer we can reach breakthrough.”

Regional FTAs should be covering services, industrial goods and agriculture since the Gulf region could benefit from exports to Europe, which in turn, could bring about better trade relations with the Gulf countries, Heemskerk said.

Heemskerk said he was very much impressed by the progress and strategic choices made by Qatar in diversifying the income sources.

Asked about the areas of co-operation the Netherlands were looking at with Qatar, he said it essentially boiled down to energy, infrastructure, healthcare, education and research and development in which his country had competitive advantage.