> Press release: Further reforms would help sustain already impressive economic growth
This first Trade Policy Review of Qatar has given us a better understanding of its trade and related policies, and of the challenges it faces. The preparation of an excellent country report by Qatar has provided a useful opportunity for domestic review of trade policies — and the comprehensive assessment by the WTO Secretariat has provided all of us a valuable reference. Our dialogue has further contributed to our understanding through direct exchange between Members. It has been stimulated by the full and open engagement of the high-level Qatari delegation led by H.E. Sheikh Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani, Minister of Economy and Commerce, as well as the insightful comments by the discussant, and the thoughtful interventions by other delegations.
Members commended Qatar for its impressive economic perfomance over the past few years. This was as a result both of its macroeconomic reforms and development strategy implemented since the mid-1990s, and of high oil and natural gas export earnings as from mid-1999. Members also appreciated Qatar's efforts to diversify its economy away from crude oil, and for ensuring intergenerational equity in the exploitation of its non-renewable resources, through health, education and infrastructure projects. Recent measures taken by Qatar to improve the business environment and liberalize its investment regime were also welcomed, although delegations noted that it remains restricted in certain key activities, such as banking, insurance and commercial services, some of which continue to be dominated by public companies.
Members appreciated Qatar's hospitality during the fourth Ministerial Conference where the Doha Development Agenda was launched, and encouraged it to increase its participation in WTO activities and to fully meet its notification requirements. Qatar's market for all products is quite open, and the bulk of its trade has taken place on an MFN basis. However, it was indicated that a slight increase in protection of certain industries followed the application of the GCC common external tariff by Qatar on 1 January 2003. In this regard, Members urged Qatar to take steps to make its applied tariff fully WTO compatible. Concerns were also expressed about the imposition of a 5% commission on parallel imports of certain products, and the enforcement of WTO provisions on customs valuation.
Some Members asked about Qatar's intention to adopt legislation on contingency trade remedies and competition policy. They encouraged Qatar to amend its government procurement regime to remove, inter alia, the local agent requirement, and the price preferences for domestic and GCC products. Members also sought further clarification on: preferential trade negotiations; import restrictions (prohibitions, licensing); incentive schemes and price controls; TBT and SPS measures; protection of intellectual property rights; agriculture (food security and state support); oil, natural gas and electricity (state intervention and further diversification); manufacturing (“Quality Qatarization” programme); and services (GATS commitments, financial, telecoms, transport, and tourism).
Members appreciated the responses provided by the Qatari delegation, including the clarifications provided with respect to customs valuation procedures.
In conclusion, I encourage Qatar to pursue the implementation of its already impressive reforms, including further improvement of its multilateral commitments, with a view to enhancing the transparency, predictability, and credibility of its trade regime, and adherence to WTO principles. I invite Members to assist Qatar by providing adequate technical assistance, including in trade capacity building, and by further opening their market for products towards which Qatar is diversifying its exports.