The US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC) and the Qatar-America Institute (QAI), completed a two-day outreach trip to the city with His Excellency Nasser Allenqawi, Consul General of the State of Qatar from New York. The visit included a series of high-level engagements in the city focused on education, culture, and business. The visit is part of a series of outreach visits focused on enhancing the US-Qatar bilateral relationship.
As part of The Qatar America Institute’s Expressions Series on those that have been inspired by Qatari art and culture, noted author and architectural critic Philip Jodidio and former Senior Associate Dean of Northwestern University in Qatar, Richard J. Roth, kicked off the Chicago-based events with a dialogue on contemporary architecture and urban development in Doha, Qatar.
The event gathered Chicago area architects, engineers, business leaders and students for an overview by Mr. Jodidio that included discussion of Qatar’s state-of-the-art museums and internationally acclaimed original architecture including the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art; the Qatar National Library; Msheireb Downtown Doha with major design and sustainability innovations by Chicago-based architects and engineers; the Sidra Medical and Research Center, and a host of Pritzker-laureate architecture that forms the campus of the Qatar Foundation and six top U.S. universities in Doha; and the newly-opened National Museum of Qatar—Jean Nouvel’s second iconic work to be built in Doha.
Mr. Jodidio and Mr. Roth expanded the discussion with audience members to focus on ways the special relationship between the U.S. and Qatar has led to an increasingly progressive and open country, radical innovations in sustainable public transit for Doha, and the highest concentration of original architecture by Pritzker Prize in the world.
“There is a desire for openness, there is a desire for lasting quality, there is desire for modernity,” said Mr. Jodidio. “Some of this must seem strange for people who listen to the news and sometimes hear negative things about the region, but after 18 visits and extensive time working in Qatar, I can tell you this is a truly inspiring place that is open, forward-thinking, and preparing its own people for a future which might just be one without carbon-based fuels, gas, and oil.”
The US-Qatar Business Council, in partnership with the Chicago Regional Growth Corporation and the Illinois District Export Council, hosted a business luncheon featuring His Excellency Allenqawi. The luncheon took place in downtown Chicago, and welcomed over 35 executives and export managers from the Chicago area.
Mohammed Barakat, Managing Director of the US-Qatar Business Council delivered a presentation covering Qatar's business climate, growth potential, and opportunities for American companies. He highlighted Qatar's advanced infrastructure, economic resiliency, and new regulations that make investing and establishing easier for American companies.
"Despite generating great revenue from the export of Liquified Natural Gas, the State of Qatar has focused on reinvesting that revenue on its own economy, with a focus on infrastructure and the private sector," said Mr. Barakat. "Qatar now allows 100% foreign ownership, offers competitive incentives for foreign companies, and is strategically located for companies seeking to do work regionally," he added.
QAI also hosted the U.S. representative from the Qatar World Cup organizing entity, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), in a briefing session with Chicago-area executives and leaders from across the sports sector. The SC shared currents and updates, and address questions about the mega-event expected to attract 1.5 million fans to Qatar in November 2022. During the briefing, the SC’s representative emphasized Qatar’s commitment to deliver a “not only national, but also tournament showcasing all countries and cultures of the region.”
Another commitment that was highlighted was the SC’s pledge to allocate between $40-50 million to pay off construction migrant workers debts at their home-countries. The representative stressed the existing U.S.-Qatar economic ties in relation to the Qatar World Cup which will reach $10 billion invested in American services and expertise for the upcoming tournament in 2022.
During the briefing, the SC’s representative noted Qatar’s recently implemented reforms for workers’ rights, which reflect their commitment to respect the standards of hosting the tournament and to improve the welfare of the country’s expatriate labor force. This was witnessed with the following policy decisions: Qatar’s unilateral decision to sign a three-year technical cooperation agreement with the United Nations’ International Labour Organization to promote labor laws in the country and build government officials’ capacity to implement them and ensure that recruitment practices are in line with best international practices.
The two-day run of events concluded with a packed reception that gathered more than 100 local business and community leaders to celebrate the impacts, cultural and education links, business opportunities and jobs created by the long-standing partnership between Qatar and the U.S. Consul General Allenqawi and Illinois Secretary of State the Honorable Jesse Clark White addressed the guests and underscored the commitment to continued collaboration between Qatar and Chicagoland businesses and cultural institutions.
In his concluding remarks, Consul General Allenqawi thanked QAI, USQBC, and Chicago’s local business and cultural communities for a successful series of meetings and events. “I sincerely hope this was energizing and inspiring for you all, as it was for me, and that we can build and inspire on the ideas exchanged to further the relations between our two nations.”