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Economic relations

Due to the significant fall in French imports of natural gas and oil, trade between France and Qatar dropped by 25% in 2012. Current trade operations held up well, however, resulting in a slight increase in exports (USD1 billion) that virtually restored the balance of trade to equilibrium after the heavy deficit reported in 2011.

Qatar remains our third biggest customer and our third biggest supplier in the Arabian Peninsula. In 2012, the country became our seventh biggest customer in the Near and Middle East (up from eighth place in 2011), overtaking Iraq, and our sixth largest supplier (down from fourth place in 2011). Globally, Qatar ranks as our 56th biggest customer (up 1 place) and 56th biggest supplier (down 7 places). Our share of the Qatari market fell over the first ten months of 2012, to stand at 3.8%.

For over a decade, France’s exports to Qatar have been concentrated in three main sectors, the relative importance of which varies from year to year: the supply of capital goods under the terms of major contracts, deliveries of Airbus aircraft, and current trade.

Over the years, French firms have made their mark in many sectors: aviation, luxury goods, water treatment, distribution, construction and arms. Qatar is also planning to replace almost all of its military equipment (forecast procurement spending of USD26 billion) and this prospect offers great opportunities for French firms.

Qatar’s sovereign investment fund (Qatar Investment Authority, QIA), estimated to have some USD150 billion at its disposal, is significantly less well endowed than those of Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Although the United Kingdom is by far the biggest recipient of Qatari investment, in terms of both quantity and value (at some USD30 billion), France remains a particularly attractive opportunity for the sovereign fund.

In the space of just five years, Qatar has probably invested, directly or indirectly, something like USD15 billion (not counting private investments by the Emir and his family). These investments make up a vast portfolio of long-term shareholdings, further reinforcing the international image of the emirate, which has made a number of high-profile acquisitions, particularly in property markets.

Updated on 15.07.13

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