On 16 February 2017 the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 2 of 2017 introducing the new arbitration law of Qatar (“Arbitration Law”). Previously arbitrations were categorised as either “foreign” or “domestic”. However, the Arbitration Law has introduced a new term that translates literally into “international” with respect to categorising an arbitration. At this time it is unclear whether the use of the term “international” is intended to equate to “foreign”, or whether an “international” arbitration is yet another category of arbitration distinct from “domestic” or “foreign” categories.
According to Article 2(4) of the Arbitration Law, an arbitration shall be “international” if the subject matter is related to international trade and at least one of the following requirements are met:
At the time of concluding the arbitration agreement the main places of business of the concerned parties are in different countries;
At the time of concluding the arbitration agreement any one of the following is located outside of the State of Qatar:
- The seat of arbitration as determined by the arbitration agreement;
- The place in which a substantial part of the contractual obligations is carried out;
- The location with the closest relation to the subject matter of the dispute;
- The subject matter of the dispute is related to more than one state; or
- The parties agree to utilise a permanent arbitral institution whose mains offices are located in or outside of the State of Qatar (such as ICC).
With respect to item d) above this means that an arbitration conducted pursuant to the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (“QICCA”) would be categorised as an “international” arbitration for the purposes of the Arbitration Law.
So what does this mean? This could be helpful if the result is to permit a QICCA award to be enforced in the same way as, say, an award from an ICC arbitration seated in Paris. Unfortunately, the Arbitration Law does not address whether international arbitrations are to be treated differently from other types of arbitration, and it therefore does not actually specify the significance of such a designation. Furthermore, as the Arbitration Law was only recently promulgated there is no case law addressing this particular issue. Accordingly, it will be interesting to see how the term is applied in practice and whether such a designation impacts the enforcement of arbitral awards in Qatar.