Thank you, Chair.
On behalf of the EU, I would first like to welcome the Delegation of Qatar, led by H. E. Mr. Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari, Minister of Commerce and Industry. I would also like to thank the WTO Secretariat and Qatar for their reports and the Discussant, H.E. Mr. Hung Seng TAN (Ambassador of Singapore) for the introductory remarks.
The EU welcomes the useful insights that this review has provided regarding Qatar’s modernisation and diversification strategy and the measures taken by the Government to mitigate the impact of a challenging economic situation, particularly starting from 2017. The latest developments in the GCC region, with the recent Al Ula Declaration in January 2021 are promising in terms of helping to intensify intra-regional trade as well as trade with other parts of the world.
As an open economy dependent on international trade, Qatar is well placed to play an active supportive role to the multilateral trading system. In this respect, the EU works with Qatar in the WTO in important areas such as the WTO reform, the Joint Statement Initiatives on e-commerce and on investment facilitation, which constitute important and forward-looking agenda for the international trade and for the WTO. We would like to encourage Qatar to also join the Joint Statement Initiative on Domestic Regulation in Services as well as the Government Procurement Agreement.
We would like to congratulate Qatar for the ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2014 and for the acceptance of the Protocol Amending the TRIPS Agreement in 2016. However, we invite Qatar to submit and update notifications in the areas of agriculture (domestic support and export subsidies), on import licensing procedures, quantitative restrictions, customs valuation, subsidies, state-trading enterprises, and GATS.
As regards the EU’s bilateral relationship with Qatar, trade, investment and economic dialogue form an important part of the bilateral agenda. The EU is Qatar’s fourth largest trading partner, at 11.5% of Qatar’s global trade and we have a robust investment relationship, with total bilateral FDI stock exceeding EUR 38 billion. While the negotiations for an EU-GCC FTA were suspended in 2008, the EU remains open to engage in a dialogue on how to bring the trade and investment partnership forward.
The Government of Qatar has made significant efforts to diversify the economy (inter alia leading to a 66% share of the non-mining sector at the beginning of 2020). Nonetheless, Qatar remains heavily dependent on the energy sector, which suffered the largest contraction of demand in history due to the COVID-19 pandemic, generating a significant drop in Qatari GDP last year.
At the same time, and this is a clear priority from the EU’s perspective, the crisis also provides an opportunity and a strong incentive to accelerate the transformation of the economy towards a more sustainable model, also reflecting the commitments under the Paris Agreement which Qatar ratified in June 2017.
As the written questions demonstrate, WTO Members have a number of questions and concerns on important areas essential for smooth trading and investment relations with Qatar. From the EU perspective these concern, among others, the areas of customs valuation and procedures, regulation on the conditions of non-Qatari investments, the system of standards and technical requirements, SPS requirements notably for milk and cheese products, the new tendering requirements in public procurement and the various questions related to the important area of intellectual property protection and reforms to labour law, namely the kafala system.
While the EU acknowledges that Qatar has undertaken significant initiatives to facilitate trade and foreign investment, it is our view that further efforts are necessary to enhance trading conditions, in particular in the above-mentioned areas.
On behalf of the EU, I wish Qatar a very productive and successful review.
Thank you, Chair.