Exporting to Qatar

Qatar has one of the highest levels of GDP per capita in the world (IMF, 2018). Qatar is an affluent market with a growing population, dynamic economy and business-friendly environment.

Strong links with the UK

Qatar has strong political, cultural, and economic ties to the UK. English is widely spoken and people value brands from the UK. UK exports to Qatar continue to rise. In the year to March 2019, UK exports to Qatar amounted to £3.5 billion (ONS, 2019).

National Vision 2030

The UK is the partner of choice for National Vision 2030, Qatar’s social, economic and environmental development programme (Goverment Communications Office of Qatar, 2019). It provides a framework for government policy, planning and allocation of funds. Its goals include reducing reliance on oil and gas revenues, increasing economic diversity (including developing a local knowledge-based economy) and stimulating the private sector.

Foreign direct investment incentives

Qatar has various initiatives to incentivise foreign direct investment (FDI). There are two free zones, designed to allow for 100% foreign ownership, one near Hamad International Airport and one near Hamad Port (Qatar Free Zone Authority, 2019). Manateq, Qatar Financial Centre and Qatar Science and Technology Park operate as free-zone-style locations.

Ease of doing business

83

out of 190 countries (World Bank, 2019)

Currency

Riyal

Business language

Arabic

English is widely spoken, but business documents will need to be in Arabic

GDP per capita

$70,770

UK is $42,558 (IMF, 2018)

Economic growth

2.2%

(IMF, 2018)

Time zone

GMT +3

Opportunities for exporters

There are opportunities for UK companies across a broad range of industries. Our trade advisers in the Qatar have identified particular opportunities for UK businesses in the following sectors.

Doing business in Qatar

Preparing to export

Taxation

The UK and Qatar have signed a double taxation agreement, meaning the same income is not taxed twice.

Qatari companies are exempt from tax. However, foreign companies and any business activity carried out in Qatar are subject to a corporate income tax of 10%. This includes any services or consultancy contracts within the state as well as any gains on property.

VAT

If you’re registered for Value Added Tax (VAT) you can zero-rate VAT on most goods you export to Qatar.

There is presently no sales tax in Qatar.

Import and excise duties

Qatar is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) customs union. The rate of duty on most items imported into the GCC is 5%.

Goods that compete with locally manufactured products attract higher rates of duty, such as steel (20%), cement (20%) and urea (30%).

There is a 100% tariff imposed on alcohol and tobacco products in Qatar. You should check you have paid excise duty on any alcohol, alcoholic drinks, energy products, electrical or tobacco products you send to Qatar.

Standards

Most Qatari product standards are based on those developed by the Gulf Standardization Organization. They’re based to some extent on international standards but don’t necessarily conform.

There are Qatar-specific standards relating to building, mechanical and food products. The Qatar General Organization for Standards and Metrology is responsible for standards.

Food packaging and labelling

Qatar enforces strict food labelling and packaging laws, and GCC shelf-life standards for some products. Products must arrive with at least half the shelf-life remaining.

Labels must be in Arabic only, or Arabic with an English translation. Products with English-only labels may be approved for import on a case-by-case basis.

Operating in Qatar

Challenges

Challenges facing businesses operating in Qatar include bureaucracy, payment delays and a lack of transparency in the market. Foreign investment is restricted in some sectors.

You may wish to read the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Overseas Business Risk report for Qatar.

Intellectual Property

You should register your trademarks at the Qatar Intellectual Property Department - Trademark Office at the Ministry of Economy. Inventive designs or industrial models can also be registered under the Trade Mark Law.

Register at Qatar’s Copyright Office to protect inventions and literary and artistic works.

Payment terms

For advice about payment and finance in Qatar, talk to a bank or accountant. The DIT team in Qatar can help you find a financial adviser in Qatar.

Make sure you clearly specify payment terms in the contract with your customer or buyer. Any dispute will have to go through the Qatari legal system for resolution, which can be a lengthy, complicated process.

Partnership and agreements

You should sign a contract before undertaking any work or projects in Qatar.

To do business in Qatar you will need a local sponsor. There is also a requirement for a partnership split of 49% to 51% in favour of the Qatari national, with the foreign company bearing the greater risk.

Business culture

You’ll find some differences in Qatari and UK business culture, for example:

  • Qatar is an Islamic country and follows sharia law
  • although English is widely spoken, businesses in Qatar must use Arabic as the main language for issuing invoices, service lists, product labels and customer services
  • establishing professional relationships is essential to securing business contracts
  • the working week is Sunday to Thursday

Next steps

DIT can advise you on doing business abroad, and help put you in touch with other people who can help such as lawyers and distributors.