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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce held a webinar for its members last Thursday to discuss the investment opportunities and benefits for US companies in the Free Zones. His Excellency Ahmad bin Mohamed Al-Sayed, Minister of State and Chairman of Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA), addressed over 85 attendees, including representatives from leading US corporations and household names such as Apple, Boeing and ExxonMobil.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue opened the meeting saying: “A number of leading companies have partnerships in the Free Zones – Microsoft, Google. If that’s where they’re going, everybody should think about getting there and working directly with the Zones and US companies that are already set up there.”The arrival of Google and Microsoft is a major achievement for QFZA, who has worked extremely hard to make sure the infrastructure and regulatory environment is at the standard needed to bring in the world’s leading companies.
The Minister stressed that the Free Zones continue to implement their strategy to be a premier hub for technology companies that lead the New Economy, supported by advanced infrastructure, top national universities and research centers, and a benefits package that make the Free Zones and Qatar the destination of choice for companies looking to establish a regional presence.
The Free Zones are particularly focused on bringing in international companies that make up the New Economy and specialize in technologies like the Internet of Things, cloud services, cyber security, and industrial intelligence that are contributing to the fourth industrial revolution. Thales has recently inked an agreement with QFZA to establish a center for digital competencies that will provide its cross-sector services for companies across the region. QFZA is keen to capitalize on this momentum to welcome still more US technology companies to join their compatriots in the Free Zones.
The Minister noted that Qatar has made substantial investments in recent years on mega projects, including 5G coverage expansion and metro systems, and a range of other infrastructure works. The transport network projects, combined with Qatar’s geographic position, make the Free Zones a particularly attractive proposition for the logistics sector. Qatar has also developed a leading healthcare sector and a world-class education system with more than 15 international universities in addition to multiple international schools and leading research centers under the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, Qatar University, and a range of other institutions.
The Minister said the government of Qatar has created an extremely welcoming regulatory environment for foreign companies in the Free Zones that allows for 100% foreign ownership and the opportunity to establish strategic partnerships with the Qatari private sector and Doha Venture Capital, to help drive these companies’ regional and global expansion. QFZA also offers considerable perks like 20-year tax holidays and no customs duty on imports.
A major concern for companies setting up overseas, particularly tech companies, is the protection of their intellectual property and customer data. The legal frameworks put in place by Qatar have proven robust enough to attract leading tech companies Google and Microsoft – both of which have a fearsome reputation for guarding their intellectual property – to establish data centers in the Free Zones.
Qatar and QFZA are confident that its infrastructure will be a significant inducement for companies seeking a global operations hub that provides access to major markets in Asia, Europe and Africa along with all the advantages provided by world-leading infrastructure and logistics operations. The approach is endorsed by Patrick Trippel, President and CEO of Inventus Power, who said during the webinar: “We’re already partnering our R&D centers with local centers there, and we’re going to build a regional development center that’s going to be integrated with our development centers in US and in Asia. As far as getting talent, it’s readily available. Our experience so far has been excellent.”
During the webinar, several other US companies showcased their successful experience in investing in the Free Zones, with other firms exploring the investment opportunities on offer in the Free Zones which QFZA see as an encouraging sign of continued interest and confidence in Qatar’s economy and the strategic direction of the Free Zones.
Summing up, the Minister said: “Our intention is not to stop at what we are giving to you today. Rest assured that we will continue to upgrade and update our systems, and all our investors’ ideas and challenges will be discussed and acted on. We will not stop serving you”.