Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA) is in the final rounds of discussions with a significant number of global high-value companies. QFZA’s primary targets are companies from key sectors like logistics, downstream chemicals sectors, healthcare, new energy and food processing, the Authority Chief Executive Officer Lim Meng Hui has said.

In the new energy sector, QFZA has already signed an MOU with China Harbour Engineering Co. (CHEC), a world-renowned company which represents the overseas arm for its parent company China Communications Construction Company Ltd. CHEC is planning to cooperate with its sister company, under CCCC, which produces new energy vehicles, on the potential investment in Qatar Free Zones. CHEC will establish a clean energy bus assembly factory in the Qatar Free Zones, Hui said.

Speaking to The Peninsula, on the sidelines of the Back2Business 2019, the annual business networking event supported by 10 international companies and QFZA, Hui said discussions with some global Fortune 500 companies are also in the final stage. He said a significant number of world class companies are in the pipeline.

On the timeline of the first batch of companies joining QFZA , the CEO said: “We have already closed discussions with a quite few of the companies. We understand, these companies need a little more time to take the final decisions. Some of them have already decided to join and many others are at different stages of discussions. Some companies have already set up their infrastructure at QFZA.”

Recently, in an interview to Bloomberg, Ahmad Mohammed Al-Sayed, the chairman of Qatar’s Free Zones Authority, said Qatar has plans to spend $3bn to attract foreign companies to its new free zones.

Hui said QFZA has already started receiving applications from the aspiring companies. “We have received applications from quite number of potential companies. We are currently checking out their business plans and how they are going to contribute to Qatar and how well-positioned they are to serve the region, based in Qatar.”

The CEO said the prospective Chinese companies will play a critical role in leveraging China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Qatar’s unique geographical and strategic position makes it a potential trade centre and a gateway to the world and will play an important role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The Chinese companies’ cooperation with the QFZA will further promote bilateral exchanges in trade promotion, industrial investment, talent training and other aspects, which will facilitate the mutual development under the Belt and Road framework, he said.

In January, QFZA was in China and signed three MoUs with leading entities in China. A MoU was signed with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT). CCPIT will help Chinese companies better understand the policies and regulations of Qatar Free Zones Authority, by sending and receiving business missions, organising events, and releasing information, etc, to further promote bilateral trade and mutual investment.

Another MoU signed with China Harbour Engineering Co. (CHEC), is a world-renowned company which represents the overseas arm for its parent company China Communications Construction Company Ltd.

The third MoU signed by QFZA with the Administration of Xiamen Area of China (Fujian) Pilot Free Trade Zone (Xiamen-FTZ) will help collaborate in identifying investment opportunities and developing key industries to boost manufacturing while enhancing research and development in order to provide more job opportunities.

On the geographic breakdown of the target countries, Hui said Qatar has strategic relationships with countries across the world. “Germany, France and Spain are some of the countries that we are looking for from Europe.

“Companies from the US are very important for QFZA. We are also expecting Companies from Latin America. In addition to China, we are expecting major companies from Japan, S Korea, India and Pakistan to join us. The discussions with the companies from these countries are progressing at various levels.”