Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Qatar Accedes to the Agreement on the Liberalisation of Trade in Services among Arab Countries

By: Reeda Halawi – Associate

Qatar recently acceded to the Agreement on the Liberalisation of Trade in Services among Arab Countries[1] (“Trade Liberalisation Agreement” or “TLA”) by virtue of Decree Law No. (71) for 2023. The TLA intends to liberalise trade in services between Arab countries. This liberalisation is in line with the provision of Article 5 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services[2] (“GATS”), which is annexed to the Marrakesh Agreement[3] that established the World Trade Organisation (“WTO”) in 1995.

Article 2 of the Trade Liberalisation Agreement prescribes three means by which to achieve its goals. First, by developing a general framework for the gradual liberalisation of trade in services amongst Arab States, the TLA creates a convenient and opportune environment that facilitates trade in services. Such an environment should enhance the economic cooperation and integration of Arab States. A second means is promoting Arab countries’ common interests in the services sector based on shared profits and advantages and on a rights-obligations equilibrium. Finally, there is the establishment of a free-trade zone that considers every Member State’s development level to the TLA, especially those least developed economies.

Consequently, the Trade Liberalisation Agreement will allow service providers in Qatar to better access the liberalised services markets. Under Article 4 of the Trade Liberalisation Agreement, each Member State must grant services and service suppliers from any other Member State, immediately and unconditionally, treatment no less favourable than that granted to similar services and service suppliers from any other country. This liberalisation applies to all services in all sectors, except for services provided by governmental authorities as part of their mandate.

Further, Article 5 stipulates that the Trade Liberalisation Agreement shall not be interpreted in a way that precludes any party from granting benefits to neighbouring countries to facilitate the trade and exchange of services that are produced and consumed locally within neighbouring bordering areas. As such, the TLA permits a Member State to grant additional benefits to other states and members to another convention or agreement aimed at a wide-ranging liberalisation of trade in services between its members.

Additionally, the Trade Liberalisation Agreement does not prevent its Member States from entering into agreements between each other to establish a complete integration of their labour markets, provided that (a) citizens of these Member States shall be excluded from requirements pertaining to obtaining residency and work permits, and (b) these Member States shall notify the Economic and Social Council of such agreement. The result is that Member States can access the markets of Arab States that are not WTO members.

Finally, and to uphold the principle of transparency in international trade relations, Article 7 of the Trade Liberalisation Agreement stipulates that each Member State shall, except in emergency cases, publish all important applicable procedures that relate to or affect the implementation of the TLA, without delay and no later than the entry into force of such procedures. All international agreements relating to or affecting trade in services to which a Member State has entered into or ratified should also be published. Where such publication cannot be carried out, the information should be made available to the public differently.

Furthermore, each Member State must notify the Economic and Social Council, without delay and every year, of any new laws, regulations or administrative guidelines or of any amendments to existing procedures that might significantly impact trade in services covered by the obligations of the TLA.

[1] Agreement on the Liberalisation of Trade in Services among Arab Countries_ Arabic version