Foreign InvestmentsThe Law Regulating the Investment of Non-Qatari Capital in Economic Activities No. 25 of 1990 governs the area of foreign investment in Qatar. Under this law, non-Qataris are allowed to engage in trade, industry, agriculture and services under the condition that the non-Qatari investor must have one or more Qatari partners whose share in the business capital is at least 51 percent and that the business relationship with the Qatari partner must be carried on through a commercial company incorporated according to the Companies Law No.11 of 1986 (see section on Business Structures and Forms). The law does not permit non-Qataris to own shares in a joint stock company unless the shareholder is a national of an Arab country that has reciprocal agreements with Qatar or if there is a need for foreign capital or experience, and a license to that effect is obtained from the Minister of Finance, Economy and Commerce.
Non-Qataris meeting the above requirements may also carry on contracting business upon fulfillment of additional conditions. A special license from the Minister of Finance, Economy and Commerce must be issued following consultation with relevant government authorities. This requires that an application be submitted to the Minister, supported by all relevant documents. If 30 days elapse without a reply from the Minister, the application is presumed to have been rejected. Applicants whose applications were rejected may appeal to the Minister within 30 days. The decision in the appeal is final.
In determining applications, one of the factors considered is the demand for the type of business for which an application is made. Businesses engaging in fields for which there is a high demand in Qatar include businesses with high technology expertise.
In 1997, Qatar finalized legislation to abolish the requirement of 51 percent Qatari ownership. This step is aimed at attracting foreign investment in small and medium scale businesses. The new legislation will come into effect pending Emiri approval. As of 1999, this has yet to happen.
Trade AgreementsQatar became a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1996. Prior to that time, it participated in GATT as an observer. As a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Qatar participates in the GCC's free trade arrangements. Qatar also became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995.
Qatar has been engaged, through the GCC, in trade and investment negotiations with the United States, the European Community and Japan. The dialogue initiated among them is ongoing. In addition to the GCC Economic Agreement (1983) signed among member states of the GCC, Qatar has also signed economic/commercial agreements with Egypt and Tunisia.
ImportsGoods and commodities imported into Qatar are subject to customs tariffs as follows:
Imports into Qatar require an import license, which may only be issued to Qatari citizens. Agents and agency agreements are subject to the Law Concerning the Regulation of Activities of Local Commercial Agencies and Their Foreign Principals 4/1986, as discussed in the above section on Commercial Agencies.
In accordance with Islamic tradition, the importation of pork and pork products is prohibited. Also prohibited are firearms, ammunition, immodest prints and pictures, narcotics and artificial pearls. Alcohol and alcohol products are discouraged by the imposition of heavy customs duties.
Goods from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries are given preferential tariff rates. According to a reciprocity agreement among the GCC states, products of GCC origin are exempted from customs duties. Except for steel, along with tobacco and cigarettes, all general merchandise is subject to 4 percent customs duties. The current rate of customs duty for steel is 20 percent, 10 percent for hi-fi equipment and 100 percent for tobacco and cigarettes.
ExportsThere are no export charges on goods or commodities exported from Qatar.
Public Sector ProcurementIn Qatar, the government is the main end-user of a wide range of products and services. The government's procurement policy is based on standard tender procedures. In order for foreign firms to participate in those tenders, they must obtain a local agent.
In general, The Qatari government does not award turnkey contracts, preferring to award separate contracts to consultants. The government announces invitations to pre-qualify in local and/or foreign papers and periodically through Qatari embassies abroad. Law No. 8 of 1979 also provide for classification of contractors by a committee operating under the Central Tenders Committee (CTC). This process is based upon the firm's financial standing, business reputation and experience. Preference is usually accorded to the lowest bidder that meets all specifications.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )