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Kuwait aims for continued major increases in US-based investments in next 20 years - Al-Saleh
September 7, 2017, 8:45 am
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Anas Al-Saleh during opening remarks at the first US-Kuwait Economic Forum.

In the last 20 years, the Kuwait Investment Authority's (KIA) investments in the US have grown by nearly 20 times, and Kuwait hopes to see its US-based investments grow by another 20 folds in the coming two decades, especially in US infrastructure, real estate and real estate development and financing, Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Anas Al-Saleh said during opening remarks Wednesday at the first US-Kuwait Economic Forum.

"Today, the US is KIA's most important investment destination, and the largest with over 50 percent of our investments deployed here," Al-Saleh said during the forum, which was held at the US Chamber of Commerce headquarters. "We have over 400 billion dollars invested in the US economy across all asset classes, industries and sectors." This amount excludes the substantial investments made by Kuwait's private sector and private entities, he noted.

The "unbreakable bond" between the US and Kuwait "was earned by both sides over decades of hard work by those who preceded us, from policy makers to business professionals" -- a bond built on shared business, social, diplomatic and political interests, Al-Saleh said.

About a year ago, Kuwait began implementing its National Program for Economic and Fiscal Sustainability, which has a key objective of accelerating the growth of the non-oil economy and empowering the private sector to take the lead, he noted.

"In this regard, the government outlined a 25-year national privatization strategy, with a first-stage priority to privatize infrastructure facilities and projects such as power generation, ports, airports and telecom infrastructure," he said. "In parallel, we are also working on supporting these initiatives with the necessary legislative framework to create an efficient business environment to attract more foreign investment, and it is working." Global companies are operating locally in Kuwait through different models, including the PPP model, with companies such as the France-headquartered company, Engie, and the 100 percent direct foreign ownership model, such as MacKenzie and GE, Al-Saleh said.

Kuwait recently launched a "one-stop shop" for foreign investors and companies who wish to establish 100 percent-owned entities in Kuwait, he said. The Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) was recognized by the US State Department in its 2017 report titled "Investment Climate in Kuwait," he noted.

"This recognition is a direct result of our significant efforts in promoting and encouraging inward investments by making the domestic environment more business friendly," Al-Saleh said. "Today IBM, HUAWEI, GE, MacKenzie and many more all have 100 percent-owned licenses and operations in the country, with free transfer of capital and earnings, all tax-free," Al-Saleh said.

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, in his opening remarks, noted the "strong military-to-military partnership and strong trade ties" between the US and Kuwait, including one of "the most important security relationships" in the world.

Merchandise trade between the countries is on track to set a new record this year, he said, and the countries plan to sign a direct investments agreement on Friday.

The KDIPA has been working to improve the investment climate in Kuwait, Ross said, adding, "We are pleased to partner with them." "The Kuwait government continues to have a healthy budget and maintains a strong fiscal position," Ross said.

The Kuwait government is working to streamline registration and licensing procedures for new businesses, and the immediate outlook for the Kuwait economy is strong, but it is important for Kuwait to diversify, he added.

Ross said he would encourage Kuwait to ratify the World Trade Organization trade facilitation agreement.

Osamah Al-Nisf, from the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said during his opening remarks that when the Amir of Kuwait, H.H. Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, meets with US President Donald Trump on Thursday, "the economic cooperation between our two countries will remain a clear priority." The Kuwaiti private sector "looks with satisfaction and confidence toward the diversification, privatization and reform plan," Al-Nisf said.

For three decades or more, the US has ranged among the top three of Kuwait's trading partners, and has been the first and most important destination for Kuwait's public and private investments, he said.

The US "will remain the primary haven for Kuwaiti foreign investments" so that "Kuwait will become your first gateway to the Gulf area and beyond," Al-Nisf said.

The turnout to the forum was huge from the American private sector as there was as well a very positive interaction from their part wanting to know more about the investment opportunities in Kuwait.

For their part, several of the American private sector representatives praised the measures and amendments taken by the Kuwaiti government to encourage the foreign investor to enter the Kuwaiti market, in particular the "One Window" project recently launched by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The US Chamber of Commerce and the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry in partnership with the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority hosted the first of its kind US-Kuwait Economic Forum, which includes panel discussions focusing on "Insights from Kuwaiti Government Leaders" and "Doing Business in Kuwait."

Source: KUNA

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