Remarks at the U.S.-Qatar Economic & Commercial Dialogue & Signing Ceremony

Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
October 26, 2015

Well, good morning everyone.  Please have a seat and we will get going.  And it is a great pleasure to welcome the ambassador and all of our colleagues from Qatar here to the State Department this morning.  We’ll be joined eventually this morning by the foreign minister, the minister of finance, and the CEO of the Qatar Investment Authority; and of course, also by Secretary Kerry and Secretary Lew from our government. 

I think many of you know that this room was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, our nation’s first diplomat, and he taught us that “energy and persistence conquer all things.” And it was an insight that honors the friendship between America and Qatar, because we have a friendship, in fact, that reflects both the energy of our people and the determination of our leaders.

We greatly appreciate the chance today to host our senior counterparts from Qatar, and indeed, this reciprocates in a small way the gracious hospitality of the foreign minister for Secretary Kerry when he was welcomed to Qatar in August for the meeting of the GCC foreign ministers.

That session was part of the ongoing collaboration on security issues between the United States and the Gulf states – a partnership that included the Emir’s participation in the Camp David meetings hosted by President Obama, and a partnership that is absolutely essential and fundamental as a component of America’s strategy and commitment to the region.

In fact, Secretary Kerry, I think as all of you know, has just returned from the Middle East, where he underscored our determination to help the Gulf states defend themselves from new and emerging dangers.

We know, of course, that in our era, Mr. Ambassador, economic and security issues often reinforce one another.  Countries that work together in one area will find it easier to do so in the other.  And of course, our economic strength can go a long way to enhancing our strength and ability to deal with all sorts of different issues around the world.  Today we recognize in a more formal way a reality that’s been clear for some time:  The United States and Qatar are partners economically just as we are in the security sphere. 

So this morning, in just a few minutes, we will be signing a joint Memorandum of Understanding to establish between us an Economic and Investment Dialogue.  We will then convene the first session of that dialogue, which we see as a platform for deepening our cooperation on a wide range of issues, and which we intend to renew on an annual basis.

Qatar is a country that plays an outsized diplomatic and strategic role in its own region, and indeed, beyond its region.  It’s an influential contributor to the political and security debates in the Middle East, and a very significant source of foreign capital.

The Qatar Investment Authority opened its first office in the United States in September with the state of Qatar planning to invest $35 billion in our country over the next five years.  Its real estate arm has already made a mark here in Washington with the City Center development right downtown that many of us have enjoyed.

And perhaps even more important, our partnership is building for the future.  Six major American universities have a branch campus in Doha – and the number of Qatari students who attend classes in the United States continue to rise, up 20 percent over the last year alone, and we want to see that continue to grow in the years ahead.

So I want to welcome all of our friends here today, and assure them that the United States will continue to work very closely with Qatar to build shared prosperity and promote the security and well-being of all of our citizens.  And now, it’s my great pleasure to turn it over to the Ambassador, Al   Kuwari.