We sat down with Matthew Wiliams, Counsel at Crowell & Moring Doha, a globally-recognized international full-service law firm, to discuss his recent appointment to the Committee Board of the Qatar British Business Forum (QBBF) and the importance of having a legal partner in navigating the intricate terrain of investments and cross-border transactions between Qatar and the UK.
Crowell Doha, actively involved in fostering economic ties between Qatar and the UK, became a member of the QBBF earlier this year, playing a pivotal role in advising clients in both Qatar and the UK on both countries’ respective multitude of investment opportunities and business dynamics.
How does Crowell Doha actively contribute to strengthening economic ties and collaboration between Qatar and the UK through its involvement with the QBBF?
Earlier this year, our firm became a member of the Qatar British Business Forum (QBBF)—an organization founded in 1992 dedicated to promoting trade between Qatar and the UK. With offices in both Doha and London, Crowell plays an active role in contributing to the strong commercial, trade and investment ties between Qatar and the UK. Our relationship with the QBBF enables our team to advise our clients in Qatar on the current business climate in the UK and how the two sides can better align their interests.
While Crowell Doha’s focus is Qatar, and has both Qatari government and private clients, it also has a significant number of UK clients. Being a member of the QBBF provides our firm with insights into the dynamics and needs of the British economy, enabling Crowell to better assist client needs in building their business and relationships in Qatar.
What specific responsibilities and obligations are associated with your new position on the Committee Board of the QBBF, and how do they relate to advancing Qatari-British trade and investment relations?
The Committee Board is the decision-making body of the QBBF. As a board member, I regularly attend board meetings, where discussions are held on the best way to further develop UK-Qatar relations.
To this end, and by way of example, at a recent board meeting, it was unanimously decided that we would have six honorary Qatari members from Qatari businesses, providing us with a direct understanding of the country’s business needs straight from its key decision-makers. The addition of these Qatari members will allow for new and exciting developments within the QBBF.
In which sectors or industries do you identify the potential for growth in bilateral trade and investment between Qatar and the UK?
Qatar has always been a major investor in the real estate sector, however, the fields of technology, fintech, and life sciences also offer key opportunities. When we speak about the nexus between artificial intelligence (AI) and the fintech sector, we can see a realm of immense potential for both Qatar and the UK. AI applications in fintech are revolutionizing the landscape of financial services, offering opportunities for innovation, efficiency, and enhanced customer experiences.
In addition, as hydrocarbon-dependent economies shift to clean energy, the importance of increasing investments in renewable technologies towards this transformation becomes apparent. A dialogue on green and sustainable financing is very important, and is an area that can be developed.
Crowell Doha has a strong reputation and solid presence in technology, and significant expertise in infrastructure projects and oil and gas. Beyond expertise, its strategic positioning enables seamless collaboration with the Qatari government entities and UK clients it represents, leveraging this rapport to drive progressive initiatives forward.
What strategies and legal expertise is required to navigate regulatory and legal complexities in cross-border business transactions between Qatar and the UK?
As with any cross-border relationship, there are many complexities in setting up a business, regulatory compliance during the term of the business, and inevitably an exit. What Qatar, and the Qatar Financial Centre, have done in recent years is to develop what was a very young and thin legal framework into a legal system that can effectively attract and support foreign investment.
There are still areas that need developing, but in the current year, there have been big strides made in the fintech arena and this is an area in which Crowell Doha is heavily involved. Our firm’s proactive engagement in Qatar's evolving legal landscape, particularly in the rapidly developing fintech sector, positions it as a strategic partner for businesses seeking to navigate the intricate terrain of cross-border transactions between Qatar and the UK.
Looking ahead, what is your vision for the future of Qatari-British trade and investment relations, and how do you see the QBBF contributing to that vision in the coming years?
Qatar and the UK have long had a close and strong relationship.
The QBBF provides an opportunity for new investors to gain deeper insight into Qatar, and understand the country’s business dynamics reassured by the many positive years of experience and solid track record embedded within the QBBF.
In May 2022, Qatar and the UK signed a Strategic Investment Partnership under which Qatar pledged to invest up to £10 billion in the UK to help create jobs and further economic growth. In that same year, the two countries shared a trade volume of over £12.1 billion. While this denotes significant outward investment, it also sets the stage for further capital inflows into Qatar. Both the QBBF and Crowell Doha stand at the forefront, uniquely positioned to offer instrumental support, leveraging their expertise and networks to facilitate and guide prospective investments into Qatar's evolving market landscape.