Qatar country brief
The State of Qatar occupies an 11,600 square kilometre peninsula on the northeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south and a narrow strait separates Qatar from Bahrain to the west.
Qatar has an estimated population of 2.7 million, with around 10 per cent Qatari nationals. The population is mostly Muslim (67.7%), with Christian (13.8%) and Hindu (13.8%) minorities. The official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken.
Qatar has the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the world on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis (2019). Qatar has the world's third largest natural gas reserves and, along with Australia, is one of the world's largest exporters of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Qatar has been ruled as an absolute and hereditary Emirate by the Al-Thani family since 1868. The non-elected executive branch of government comprises a Council of Ministers and an Advisory Council.
His Highness (HH) Sheikh Tamim bin Khalifa Al Thani became the Emir of Qatar in 2013. Both the Council of Ministers and the Advisory Council (Majlis al-Shura, which is made up of 35 appointed members) are appointed by the Emir.
In June 2017, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, cut off diplomatic ties and implemented a blockade of Qatar. Negotiations towards a resolution have not been successful and relations between Qatar and the four blockading countries remain strained.
Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. It joined the UN in 1971 and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1996. It withdrew from OPEC in January 2019.
Australia enjoys friendly bilateral relationship with Qatar marked by strong and growing commercial links, notably in food exports and engineering services. Qatar opened an Embassy in Canberra in early 2012, and Australia opened its Embassy in Doha in late 2016.
Aviation links have expanded significantly in recent years. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic Qatar Airways had daily direct flights between Doha and Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide, but this frequency has temporarily declined. Around 3,000 Australians reside in Qatar and nearly 40,000 Australians visit Qatar annually (2019).
Research links are strong, with 24 Australian universities undertaking collaborative projects with Qatari institutions in recent years. Australia and Qatar signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Higher Education, Research and Vocational Training in 2016.
As one of the world's largest and most cost-effective exporters of LNG, the hydrocarbon sector represents nearly 60 per cent of GDP. Qatar, which remains the cheapest LNG producer in the world, has commenced plans to increase its production from 77 to 126 million tonnes per annum (mpta) by 2026.
Qatar's industrial base is located at Mesaieed, 50 kms south of Doha. It includes a refinery, an aluminium smelter, a fertiliser plant, a steel plant and a petrochemical complex. Ras Laffan Industrial City, 80 kms north of Doha, is the main site for LNG production.
Qatar has for some time been working to diversify its economy by expanding knowledge industries and establishing itself as a global sports hub. As part of this, Qatar has attracted major international education institutions to Education City, including Georgetown University and Carnegie Mellon University. The country will also host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Trade and Investment
Qatar is Australia's second largest two-way trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with two-way goods and services trade worth $2.13 billion (2019).
Australian exports are led by alumina, meat, live animals and engineering services. Imports from Qatar are led by aviation services, fertilisers and aluminium.
The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) – the world's tenth largest sovereign wealth fund – and its subsidiaries Hassad Food and Nebras Power have around $3 billion invested in Australia's property, logistics, energy and agriculture sectors (2019).
Recent high-level visits
- November 2019: Visit to Australia by HE Soltan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, State Minster forForeign Affairs (to attend ‘No Money for Terror' Conference)
- September 2019: Visit to Qatar by Senator Catriona Bilyk (Head of Delegation), Senator Sam McMahon and Sharon Claydon MP
- March 2018: Visit to Qatar by the Hon David Littleproud MP, Minister for Agriculture
- November 2016: Visit to Qatar by the Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs
- January 2016: Visit to Qatar by Senator Richard Colbeck, Minister for Tourism and International Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment
- April 2015: Visit to Qatar by the Hon Andrew Robb, Minister for Trade and Investment.
Last updated: July 2020