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Qatar

Flag of Qatar

Qatar country brief

Overview

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 2.9 million, with around 10 per cent Qatari nationals. The population is mostly Muslim (68%), with Christian (14%) and Hindu (14%) minorities. The official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken.

Qatar was a British Protectorate from 1914 until its independence in 1971. Prior to the First World War, it was considered part of the Ottoman Empire.

Political overview

Qatar has been ruled by the Al-Thani family since 1868. His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani became the Emir of Qatar in 2013, after ten years as Crown Prince and Heir Apparent.

The Amir exercises executive power and appoints the Council of Ministers. The Majlis al-Shura (Advisory Council), constituted of 30 elected members and 15 members appointed by the Amir, exercises some legislative functions.

The judiciary includes a three-level system comprised of the Court of First Instance, Court of Appeal and Court of Cassation; and the Public Prosecution Office, headed by the Attorney-General, operating autonomously of executive government.

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.

Qatar is active in the United Nations, currently serving on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council, International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council, UNESCO World Heritage Committee and UN Human Rights Council (2022).

Since 2018, in partnership with the ILO, Qatar has undertaken significant labour reforms – including abolishing the Kafala system by allowing workers to change jobs, establishing a basic minimum wage and banning work outside during summer days.

Economic overview

Qatar has one of the highest GDP per capita rates in the world on both a purchasing power parity (PPP) and nominal basis. It has the world's third largest natural gas reserves and is one of the largest exporters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) globally.

The hydrocarbon sector represents nearly 60 per cent of GDP. State-owned Qatar Energy has commenced projects to increase its LNG liquefaction and export capacity from 77 to 126 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) by 2026.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is one of the world's top-ten largest sovereign wealth funds, with an estimated US $450 billion under management (2022). Strong growth in QIA acquisitions is expected to accompany growth in LNG export volumes.

Qatar is a major aviation hub, with state-owned Qatar Airways flying to over 150 destinations and operating over 200 aircraft. Hamad International Airport receives 39 million passengers annually, with projects underway to expand capacity to 50 million.

Qatar continues to diversify its economy, growing services industries and establishing itself as a financial, education and sports hub. Qatar has attracted major international institutions to its Education City and was host of the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Bilateral relations

Australia enjoys a friendly bilateral relationship with Qatar marked by strong commercial links, notably in food exports and engineering services. Qatar opened an Embassy in Canberra in 2012, and Australia opened its Embassy in Doha in 2016.

Aviation links are strong, with Qatar Airways operating daily direct flights from Doha to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide (2022). Around 3,000 Australians reside in Qatar (2022) and nearly 40,000 Australians visit Qatar annually. Around 765,000 visitors travelled to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup in 2022 – including around 7,000 Australians.

Research links are also healthy, with 24 Australian universities undertaking collaborative projects with Qatari institutions in recent years. Australia and Qatar signed an MOU on Higher Education, Research and Vocational Training in 2016.

Australian agencies including Safe Work Australia and Fair Work Australia have contributed technical expertise to support implementation of Qatar's labour reforms, in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Qatar assisted Australia to evacuate 405 Australians and vulnerable Afghans from Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul in August 2021. Qatar has hosted Australia's Interim Mission on Afghanistan since September 2021.

Trade and Investment

Qatar is a top-three trading partner for Australia in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with two-way goods and services trade worth A$30.8billion (2022) and showing annualised trend growth of 7.7 per cent over the past five years.

Many Australian companies are registered and active in Qatar. Australian exports to Qatar are led by alumina, meat, and engineering services. Qatar's exports to Australia are primarily aviation services, fertiliser and aluminium.

Sovereign wealth fund QIA and other state-owned investment vehicles Hassad Food and Nebras Power, collectively have around A $4 billion (2022) invested in Australia's property, logistics, energy and agriculture sectors.

High-level visits

  • December 2023: Visit to Qatar by the Hon. Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • November 2022: Visit to Qatar by Anika Wells MP, Minister for Aged Care and Sen Anne Ruston, Shadow Minister for Aged Care and Sport
  • July 2022: Visit to Qatar by Mark McGowan, Premier of Western Australia
  • November 2019: Visit to Australia by HE Soltan Al-Muraikhi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
  • September 2019: Visit to Qatar by Senator Catriona Bilyk, Senator Sam McMahon and Sharon Claydon MP, Parliament of Australia
  • July 2018: Visit to Qatar by Alannah MacTiernan MLC, WA Minister for Agriculture
  • March 2018: Visit to Qatar by David Littleproud MP, Minister for Agriculture
  • April 2017: Visit to Qatar by Senator Marise Payne, Minister for Defence
  • November 2016: Visit to Qatar by 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 Andrew Robb MP, Minister for Trade and Investment
  • May 2013: Visit to Qatar by Senator Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs
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