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GCC ‘must aim for economic diversification’

Gulf Times

Wednesday, 21 March, 2007, 08:38 AM Doha Time

Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor al-Thani ... ‘focus on trade, education’
Staff Reporter

THE Gulf states need to formulate policies that lead to economic diversification and go beyond energy resource management in order to ensure energy security and safeguard the region’s strategic position in the global economy, Qatar’s Planning Council secretary general HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor bin Jassim al-Thani urged yesterday.
“We should adopt policies aimed at strengthening the region’s position as a hub for trade, education, health, transportation, investment, research and development, and tourism,” he explained.
The senior official was addressing a session at the ‘Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future Conference’, which entered the second day yesterday.
Stating that there are economic, geopolitical and environmental factors that impact the energy security in the region, Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor al-Thani cited three.
They are a dynamic and well functioning global energy market, uninterrupted oil and gas supply, and depletion rates of the oil and gas reserves.
“Key geopolitical factors relate to the political conflicts in the region and could only be resolved by pursuing peaceful settlement of all regional issues that pose a continuous threat to energy security,” he said.
Environmental factors that directly impact energy security relate to global warming and environmental safety considerations along all stages of the energy supply chain.
“Those are important factors that the regional economies have to give high consideration as they pursue national policies to achieve a sustained development,” he said.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor al-Thani said the security of the region was not only in terms of defence or military protection but also included formulating strategies and adopting policies that ensure continued development in social, economic and political sectors.
The official also pointed out that making the Gulf area secure would assure continued access to the energy resources that are vital for the realisation of the global economic and social development.
Japanese prime minister’s national security adviser Yuriko Koike said her country was considering bilateral trade agreement with Qatar and the UAE.
“Japan’s trade with the GCC countries amounts to $89bn, which is the third largest after that with the US and China,” she said while pointing out that 75% of Japan’s oil needs are met by the region.
Koike described the situation in Iraq and the Iranian and Korean nuclear issues as major challenges for regional security.
“Japan will continue to stand by Iraq,” she stated while recalling that it had given $5bn in aid and cancelled $6bn worth debt earlier, in addition to a $100mn aid recently.
Referring to the Iranian nuclear problem, Koike said Iran should return to the negotiating table, suspending uranium enrichment and research activities.
“We should also continue to increase pressure on these countries,” she added.

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