Following is the transcript of a CNBC interview with Willem Marx and Qatar's Finance Minister, Ali Sharif Al Emadi.
Willem: Thank you for doing the interview, first of all, and for your time. The Saudis wanted to exclude Qatar from next month's GCC summit. Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Kuwait. I wonder whether you think the GCC still has any value for Qatar at this stage.
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: Well you know we've said we're still part of the GCC. I think his highness the Emir mentioned more than one time that you know it is very important for this GCC entity to remain and we've said that it's also very important that we have to have a proper dialogue around this disputes that something without touching our sovereignties or our foreign policy or our integrities.
Willem: I don't think anyone would question that the actions of the Saudi authorities in recent weeks have been politically destabilizing both domestically and regionally. I wonder from where you sit whether you think they will have a negative impact on the region's economy.
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: I think the way I look at it is… I will not talk about what Saudi measures are taking place internally. I think this is something that concerns Saudis economy. But I think if we talk about the state of Qatar on where we stand on this and our economical situation I think you know his highness yesterday in his opening remarks for our Shura councils was very clear in our economical financial position and where we stand, and what's our plan for the future. And as I always can say that we still despite whatever problem that those blockade countries trying to do for Qatar, they were very much unsuccessful. If you look at today, what their blockades measures, still Qatar's one of the fastest growing economy in the region. And the good news about this that's most of this growth are coming from the private sectors and not from the hydrocarbon sector that usually this region are used to. And I always said that this blockade well despite its whole, the pain that the society and the people and the culture that we went through, brought a lot of opportunities for the state of Qatar. And it's… I always look at it's going to be a turning point for our economy.
Willem: Let's talk about specific numbers then. You spoke to CNBC last back in early June I think. At the time you said that your country's foreign assets and investments totaled around five hundred billion dollars. Where does that number stand now?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: I don't think I've said 500 billion. I always said that… We would never actually put
Willem: You said two hundred and fifty percent of GDP
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: of GDP that
Willem: You said GDP around 200 billion.
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: So that's what I said more than 200 and 50 percent of the GDP. And this is… We've never actually disclosed QIA's detailed numbers.
Willem: Let me ask you this. How much are they reduced over the last six months?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: They have not reduced. I think what's happening or whatever you see in this it's mainly of our assets relocations and I know that probably the next question is how much money they will put into the systems and what type of measures you will take against you know withdrawing some of the blockade countries deposits. And I'll be I will be very much open. Our policy on this is very clear. If we see a systematic risk on our banking sectors on our economy we will take all the measures that is necessary to protect the economy and to make sure that we can defend it. And we were very much clear. We've done this before. This is not the first time that the state of Qatar will take this type of measures. We've seen it on the ground in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 when we had the financial crisis globally. We came out and we said we're going to do one, two, three, four. And if look at where our banking system stand, from 2009 until today, I think Qatar banks are extremely in good shapes. We operate more than 30 countries globally. So if we have challenges in three or four countries, I think we have still a complete open access to the international market. And I don't see any challenge in that.
Willem: Back in September Moody's said that you had injected just under 40 billion dollars into your economy. We're now at almost mid-November. Where does that number stand now ?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: Well I now I think it's not I think what Moody's meant at that time is how much money is really going to leave the system. And it's not an expenditure. It's merely how much we're really readjusting the liquidity into the system. And I said we're going to make sure that the banking system will have sufficient liquidity to operate as normal. And if you look at today's Qatar Central Bank datas which is actually you don't need to go to that but even if you can look at any Qatari bank's financials which is audited third quarter numbers you will see that things are back to the normal. You see some healthy growth in some of the local deposits and I don't think that the challenges that the blockade country anticipated that Qatar economy will have because of their blockade, and I think they failed on all their plans.
Willem: Well let's talk about that then. You said back in June to CNBC that every dollar that Qatar loses the country's blockading Qatar will lose a dollar. That hasn't turned out to be true, has it?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: Well I think it's true. I think even said, I think this is a losing game for all of us. I don't think this is helping the region. And I'm still toward this. I think for us for example if you look at the import that we were getting from the blockade countries we've seen a correction in this. You know the first month we had a 40 percent drop in imports because of the measure that the other GCC or the other blockade country did. If you look at where we stand today in our trade business we're back almost to the pre-blockade. So yes we had some drops on early weeks, I think a lot of this has been adjusted. We were very much been able to adapt to this situation. It is not by really constructing the economy but actually by really you know changing completely the supply chain that we had. We've really utilized our airport and our alliance to the best. We've just opened our new airport was which was a very big support for us. Today we get our raw and our trade business more than 80 countries. I think they've the blockade countries they've lost the Qatari business on their side. Today you are in Doha. You can walk around and even if you see we're still abiding by WTO rules. Qatar is open for business for everybody without exceptions. We have people here, they're belonging, their real estate, their cars, their houses are all protected. This is despite what we see of the Qatari investors in the blockade countries they're being going through a very tough time. They cannot reach to their asset, they cannot reach to their bank account, they cannot get their real estate sold or do any transaction there.
Willem: You talk about changing trading partners for instance. What about changing accountancy measures? A few weeks ago your central bank suddenly out of nowhere said that they were going to change the way they counted your hard currency reserves. They said it was in response to IMF guidance from the previous year. But the IMF and officials at the IMF said they were surprised at this very sudden change about a year later. It was announced with just six words. Very discreetly. And I wondered why all the discretion.
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: I don't know the exact techniques or the exact accounting but I think the underlying message of this, if you look at where we stand with our Qatar Reserve, if you look at the Minister of Finance, Qatar Central Bank and the Qatar investment authority I think it's very clear that all these three entities will work together to make sure that we're going to have a sustainable and healthy financial sector and healthy economy. And if needed we will take the exact and good measures to defend the economy.
Willem: But this measure essentially doubles your foreign currency reserves on paper. You've seen the price of CDS rocket 70 percent. You've seen your yields go up. You have a bond sale coming up soon. What message does that sudden change in your accounting that just give to investors?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: I think if you look at the yield or the forward rates from currencies, I think it's very important to look at the leaks of the e-mail that happened last week and on some of the report that where those blockade countries really trying to sabotage Qatar economy and its currencies. It is very unethical. It's against all the international articles and laws. It's against the IMF…
Willem: Let's talk about this. So you were referring to a report which mentions a document found in the possession of the Emirati ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba in which there was a plan to destabilize your currency, exhaust your foreign currency reserves by doing that, by manipulating the bond and CDS markets. And I wonder, does that make you angry as a finance minister?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: As I said, this is completely unethical, it's against all the international… Qatar is…
Willem: Are you angry about it?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: Nobody is going to be happy about this. But the good thing is they will not succeed. Qatar is an open economy. What they're doing is misleading the international investors. I'm not only looking at the Qatar economy. We've said Qatar has more than 190 nationalities living in the state of Qatar. And more than 50 or 60 countries are doing business in Qatar. We all have economical and trade links. Once a country or a blockade country trying really to do this we know that definitely it is unethical, it is against international laws and it's against IMF article of associations.
Willem: So have they tried to do this?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: We don't know. We honestly we, we put an official statements out immediately. We've said we're look we're doing our investigations here, we're going to look at, you know, the numbers, we're going to look at the detailed informations that we can if we can get any. And we're going to come out to the publicly and we'll be very honest. We will we will take all the measure that needed legally or, you know, pursue that make sure that those people be accountable to whatever action that they've taken against our economy.
Willem: But so far you've got no concrete proof that's happened.
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: What we said is we're going to have an internal investigation to look at all the information that is available and we're going to come publicly and tell you exactly what what what what is there.
Willem: What would your message be to banks or financial institutions that are thinking about participating in schemes…
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: Well I I I'll be very honest. You know I'm very close to banks locally and internationally and I think if you look at where we stand in all international banks that have been very much supportive to the state of Qatar, we do business with them on a very normal activities. I don't want to give any banks name or any countries because I don't have those type of information yet. But as I said, all international banks that are working with Qatar closely. We have here a lot of banks, a lot of internationals they operate in the state of Qatar. So for us business as usual except with the four blockade country.
Willem: I've got a couple more questions for you.
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: Please.
Willem: The ruler of Qatar, the Emir here has said that these efforts, speaking yesterday, so earlier this week, were designed to disrupt Qatar's hosting of the World Cup. Is this all about wounded national pride?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: I think I think yes. You know whatever we're hearing today. Tell me, what is the dispute between Qatar and its four blockade country? If you look at the GCC: what is the dispute between us and the other GCC country? We are not fighting on borders, we not fighting on customs, we are not fighting on trades, we are not fighting on immigrations.
Willem: So you think it's about hosting a sporting event…
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: Well I think it is and they will fail. You know we are 65 percent ready on for World Cup and we going to finish it really ahead of times. Most of our projects are on track and we're not backing off. We're go we're really going to make this a success, not for Qatar. We from day one we said this World Cup is not only for us, it's for the region, it's for the Arab, it's for everybody in this region.
Willem: President Trump, his son in law Jared Kushner have both in the past sought funding for ventures from the Qatar Investment Authority and from your former prime minister and they came away empty handed. Do you ever as a finance minister think 'gosh, it would have been nice if we just given them the money'?
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: I think the way we look at first... The way… I will not talk about our former prime minister. That's a private transaction, if there is anything on that side. But I think that we will look at our Qatar investment authorities and we would transact any transaction in that way, it's always going to be on financial ground and always on investment ground. And that's been QIA's mandate. And this is the way that actually they conduct business globally.
Willem: Thank you very much for your time today.
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi : Thank you.
Willem: That was great.
Ali Shareef Al-Emadi: You guys are OK with lighting and good. Yeah. Thank you very much. Thank you.