Since June 2017, the Government of Qatar has accelerated its plans to move from a hydrocarbon to a diversified, knowledge-based economy. In line with Qatar National Vision 2030, our roadmap launched in 2009 to achieve sustainable economic growth, we have strengthened international relationships with trade partners, opened new trade routes, increased our international investments and created new incentives for local and foreign businesses.
The catalyst for this transformation has been the illegal blockade imposed on us by our neighbors. The blockade has inspired national pride and patriotism in Qatar and given us the chance to tell the world who we are, what we stand for and what we believe in.
While the blockading countries attempted to use economic means to curtail our sovereignty through closing borders, splitting up families, and attempting to harm our currency, we have remained committed to keeping business and politics separate. Put simply, we will never stoop to their level and put our region’s citizens at risk.
The fundamentals of our economy remain strong and we have not scaled back our domestic or international trade or made changes to our long-term investment strategy. Our assets and foreign investments comprise more than 250 percent of our GDP and we remain the world’s largest exporter of LNG, GTL and the second largest producer of helium.
In recent months, we have made it easier for foreign investors to gain a foothold in the Qatari market by removing barriers to investment and providing greater incentives through our Investment Free Zones, including those located at Hamad International Airport.
We have also fast tracked major labor reforms in partnership with the International Labor Organization and opened the door for expatriates to gain permanent residency in Qatar, a first for the region.
This is in addition to the introduction of new rules that allow visa-free entry to citizens of over 80 countries. As a testament to our commitment to economic development, we are building strategic partnerships with international investors as we look forward to foreign investment in Qatar, as well as opportunities to bolster foreign economies.
The United States and the United Kingdom remain key partners for international investment and collaboration. Qatar has invested $27 billion in the US with nearly $10 billion more slated for projects in the years ahead. Qatari investment in the UK has amounted to £40 billion, and we announced in March that we will invest an additional £5 billion in the next three to five years.
Since the start of the blockade, we have continued to honor all of our business agreements and we have not missed or delayed a single shipment of energy to our regional and international partners that rely on Qatar for their sources of energy. Qatar does not and will not use economic tools to harm trading partners, nor do we leverage business deals for political gain.
Ultimately, we are committed to creating a dynamic and more diversified economy in which the private sector plays a prominent role. This has been boosted by the opening of our new Hamad Port, south of the capital Doha, which now handles 27 percent of trade in the region.
Since its opening last September, we have established new shipping routes to Oman, Kuwait, Turkey, Pakistan, and India.
The illegal actions of our neighbors have served as an impetus for us to accelerate our economic plans and renew our commitment to diversification and sustained growth.
We fully expect to see a strong return of the Qatari economy this year and growth over the years to come and we will continue to build strategic partnerships with our friends around the world.