The UK enjoys a healthy trading relationship with Qatar and British exports to Qatar have more than doubled in the last few years.  Designated as one of UK Trade & Investment’s High Growth Markets Qatar has one of the highest rates of GDP per capita in the world and a high rate of economic growth.

Qatar’s economic diversification and investment in human capital in accordance with the Qatar Vision 2030 continue to generate opportunities for UK businesses across a wide range of sectors. Vision 2013 can be viewed here:

The State of Qatar is located on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south. It has an area of 11,435 sq km (roughly half the size of Wales). Its capital city is Doha – other major towns are Ras Laffan, Al Khor, Mesaieed, Dukhan and Al Rayyan. Qatar’s population is 1.7 million according to the national census in 2010 (an increase of 128% since the last official census of 2004, when the population stood at 740,000). 76% of the population is male and 24% is female. Unofficial estimates are that round 80% of the population is comprised of expatriates (mostly other Arab, South and East Asian, European and American). Approximately 20% of the population are Qatari nationals. Qatar is an Arab nation with Islam as the official religion. Arabic is the official language but English is also widely used.

The main source of Qatar’s wealth is its vast reserves of oil and natural gas (it has the world’s 3rd largest natural gas reserves) which have made it one of the richest countries in the world. Prudent management of these natural resources has produced substantial fiscal surpluses that are being used to fund a diversification and development programme of investment in energy related industries, health, education, real estate and infrastructure both in Qatar itself and throughout the world.

The UK is one of Qatar’s key trading partners. The UK exported goods worth £1.3bn between January and December 2012 and imported £3bn. The value of the UK’s invisible exports including legal, financial and consultancy services are significant. In 2009 for instance, they amounted to £484m

Last year Qatar’s exports to the UK increased by 205% (from £737m in 2009 to £2,247m in 2010) due to increases in the flow of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) coming in through the South Hook terminal in Milford Haven, Wales, which was opened in April 2009 by HH The Emir and HM The Queen.

The UK and Qatar have signed a number of agreements and Memorandums of Understanding in recent years, including a Double Taxation Agreement in June 2009.

HH The Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, accompanied by his Consort HH Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned paid a State Visit to the UK in October 2010. During the visit, a Qatar-UK Memorandum of Understanding on Business, Trade & Technical Cooperation was signed.

Significant opportunities exist in the following sectors:

  • Construction
  • Education and Training
  • Financial and professional services
  • Energy and environment
  • Transport
  • Sport
  • Life sciences/ healthcare


Tender opportunities can be found here:


Key challenges


There are challenges for UK companies in operating in Qatar. Companies must be prepared to invest the necessary time, money and effort to maximise opportunities for success. The process of registering with local authorities can be time consuming.

The Qatari Ministry of Business & Trade is keen to implement changes; for example the recent reduction in the rate of tax paid by foreign companies to a flat rate of 10%.


A relatively small pool of potential agents or distributors reinforces the need to carefully research and assess the market before entering into any kind of commercial agreement.

Although Qatar has started to offer free zone type incentives, such as the Qatar Financial Centre and Education City, free zones as evidenced in other Gulf States do not exist. Very specific criteria apply to the kinds of activities that companies must undertake to qualify for incentives which is part of Qatar’s wider strategy to attract only those industries and sectors which complement or add value to existing businesses.




A ‘Qatarization’ initiative is in place which aims to increase the number of Qatari nationals in the private sector in particular. Employers should be aware of the requirement to pay end of service benefits to employees. Companies will need to obtain residence and work permits for their expatriate staff. All expatriate employees must be sponsored by their employer who is responsible for them while they are in Qatar.

The exploitation of significant gas reserves has made Qatar a key strategic energy supplier to the world’s major economies. Oil and gas (which account for around 50% of Qatar’s GDP) are the major driving forces of Qatar’s economy – one of the world’s fastest-growing. Safeguarding and maximizing oil and gas revenue therefore remains central to Qatar’s economic development and to its desire to diversify its economy.

During the last few years Qatar has experienced the highest average growth rate in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and in 2010 had the highest growth rate in the world. Qatar currently has the lowest rate of unemployment in the world and the second highest per-capita income (behind Liechtenstein). According to research published by Barclays in May 2013, Qatar’s economy is predicted to grow by 5-6% in the coming years.

Qatar is pressing ahead with ambitious social, economic and infrastructure development plans (together with the expansion of LNG production).

Qatar will invest tens of billions of pounds to develop its infrastructure over the next 10 years or so. Its successful bid to host the World Cup in 2022 provides a real focal point for projects including rail and the New Doha Port. Rapid population growth is driving demand for accommodation (both residential and commercial) and medical and education services. More than 50 new hotels are currently under construction or in the planning stages.


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Country Map

Qatar Placeholder

Qatar Flag

The Qatar flag