Why is Qatar’s emir visiting Malaysia?

Malaysia has become a strategic trading partner for Qatar as the Gulf country moves ahead with World Cup projects.

Qatar''s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani inspects an honour guard during a state welcome ceremony at the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur
Qatar''s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Lai Seng Sin [Reuters]

Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is in Malaysia for a two-day state visit, accompanied by a business delegation and cabinet members.

The emir, who arrived on Sunday, planned to hold talks with Malaysian leaders to strengthen bilateral relations, particularly in the fields of energy, the economy and investment.

Here is an overview of Qatari-Malaysian economic and political relations.

World Cup

  • In preparation for hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, Qatar is undertaking many construction projects, including a rail network, eight stadiums and the new city of Lusail.

  • Qatar’s need for wood in the context of this construction boom has presented a strategic opportunity for timber-exporting Malaysia. Since the Saudi-led blockade was imposed on Qatar in June, Malaysia has replaced Saudi Arabia as a steel supplier to Qatar.

  • Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Hamidi, who visited Qatar in February, has expressed hopes that Malaysian companies would be able to participate in World Cup development projects.

  • There are 15 Malaysian companies operating in Qatar in the contracting, infrastructure and hospitality sectors.

Bilateral trade 

  • Qatar and Malaysia formed a $2bn joint investment fund in 2011.

  • In 2016, total trade between the two countries amounted to $566m, according to Malaysian local media figures. Today, the trade volume amounts to nearly $1.1bn, according to the Qatar News Agency.

  • Malaysian exports to Qatar include machinery, wood products, electrical equipment and metal products. Malaysia exports timber to 218 countries around the world, identifying the timber industry as key to its 2020 development plan.

  • Malaysian imports from Qatar mainly include petroleum, chemicals, aluminium products, light machinery and equipment. 

Diplomatic relations

  • The emir’s visit comes after Malaysia received Saudi Arabia’s King Salman at the end of February. Malaysia has friendly relations with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

  • Commenting on the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and three of its neighbours in the Gulf, the Malaysian prime minister said: “We pray that with the grace of Allah the Almighty, all differences among our Arab brothers will be settled amicably and that the unity and harmony of the GCC countries can be restored.”
  • The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1974 through the Qatari embassy in Indonesia. A Qatari embassy in Kuala Lumpur was established in 2004.

  • Qatar’s former emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, visited Malaysia in 2009, while the Malaysian king visited Qatar in 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies