Cablegate: U/S Larson Meeting with Qatari Minister of Economy

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) U/S Larson met with Qatari Minister of Economy and
Commerce Mohammed Bin Ahmed Bin Jassim Al-Thani on May 15 at
the margins of the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea in
Jordan. Larson opened by seeking the views of the Qataris on
the G-8 reform initiative. He passed a copy of the latest
reform draft, asking that they review and send comments in
the coming days. Al-Thani took a quick glance at the major
themes and said that these ideas were ones they were already
working on in Qatar for Qataris. Larson suggested that
setting up networks to take advantage of the lessons learned
should be an element of the G-8 agenda.

2. (SBU) Al-Thani indicated Qatar's willingness to look at
new initiatives and to determine whether they meet Doha's
objectives and strategies and allow it to play a leading role
in the region. He added that he saw a role for Qatar in
private investment. Qatar has attracted more than $60
billion in foreign direct investment in recent years and is
willing to work with others in the region and to undertake
needed reforms.

3. (SBU) Larson encouraged Al-Thani to think creatively not
only about the broader concepts but more specifically on what
role Qatar envisions for itself in stimulating private
investment for the region. Al-Thani responded by saying that
he thought the G-8 initiative was right for the region; it
deals with the region's problems and would win over the
hearts and minds of its people. The initiative must be
perceived to be honest and transparent and it is critical to
incorporate the views and concerns of the region's
leadership. Larson agreed and said it was this type of
honest feedback he was seeking.

4. (SBU) Al-Thani turned the discussion toward TIFA and FTA
talks he planned to hold with USTR Zoellick in June. He said
Qatar was willing to make sacrifices, opening up
traditionally closed sectors such as banking and
telecommunications. He said that the Qatari government
understood this move was critical and anything less would
prevent them from joining the global economy as equal
partners. He announced his intentions to a group of EU
Ambassadors and they warned him of the costs in signing an
FTA with the U.S. He dismissed their views as simple jealousy
and added that trying to negotiate an association agreement
with seven countries, with Saudi Arabia as part of the mix,
is virtually impossible. Larson cautioned that the Qataris
must use their June visit to develop congressional contacts,
and Al-Thani agreed and said it was something the government
is working on. Al-Thani added that Qatar plans to address
some of the contentious labor issues raised by Rep. Sandy
Levin. Larson said that correcting Qatar,s labor problems
will eliminate one of the current barriers in accessing OPIC

5. (SBU) Al-Thani pushed for more information on the U.S. LNG
market. Larson cautioned against thinking the U.S. market is
limitless; there are several competing supply projects and it
will be important that Qatar move quickly and plan
strategically. Al-Thani responded by making it clear that
the U.S. market was Qatar's interest and indicated that the
selection of U.S. partners Conoco-Phillips and Exxon-Mobil
for its new 15 billion cubic meter LNG projects bear that

6. (SBU) Larson thanked Al-Thani for sponsoring the Iraq
donors group later this month. Al-Thani said that the
Qataris are very interested in supporting not only with
official funds but also through private investment. They set
up a company with a group of Iraqis whose sole focus is to
place rebuilding projects, have begun working, but recent
violence has slowed the pace. The Qatari government will
continue to do more for Iraq because doing so is critical to
the region's stability. Stability improves the lives of
everyone in the region.

7. (SBU) Larson asked Al-Thani for support on the polio
eradication initiative. Recent efforts by the OIC to
inoculate Nigerians have been hampered by local political
intransigence; he asked Al-Thani to intervene. He also asked
Al-Thani to consider joining the efforts of other donors to
eradicate this disease by helping close a $120 million
funding gap the UN program will have over the next few years.
Al-Thani asked for an update on AIDS and Larson outlined the
$15 billion program the USG is funding that will not only
focus on containment and treatment but also prevention.

8. (U) This message was cleared by Under Secretary Larson.

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