Qatar, which has excellent hearing facilities, has the potential to become a hub for international arbitration for which Doha should contemplate establishing an institutional framework within its international court and dispute resolution centre (QICDRC), according to a renowned international commercial lawyer.
Qatar's New Emerging Belt Initiative (NEBI) – focusing Kuwait, Oman, India, Pakistan and Turkey with a combined economy of more than $2.1tn – could come in aid for helping Doha shape as international arbitration hub, Khawar Qureshi, head of chambers, McNair Chambers Qatar, a Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) registered entity, told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview.
“The establishment of an arbitration centre under the auspices of QICDRC which has internationally renowned retired judges on the bench can strengthen the message that Qatar is looking outwards to attract international parties in the dispute resolution context,” said Qureshi, who specialises in commercial litigation, international arbitration and international law.
QICDRC already has a benchmark agreement with the global authority on dispute settlement, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), further enhancing Qatar’s profile as a hub for effective arbitration and alternative dispute resolution.
There is no reason why more arbitration hearings cannot take place in Qatar as and when a dedicated institution supported by state-of-the-art facilities and best practices (arbitration law and rules) is established and promoted, Qureshi said, adding Qatar can achieve a great deal by setting itself up as the “New Singapore for Arbitration”.
"Qatar has established excellent hearing facilities at the QICDRC which can and should be used more widely. In terms of arbitration, Qatar can learn from London as well as Singapore to enhance its arbitration offering in terms of an international arbitration institution (ideally within the QICDRC framework), based upon best practices, clear/robust legal framework and state of the art facilities," said.
Opening the first ever Barristers Chambers outside England and Wales at the QFC in 2008; he said it viewed Qatar as a regional and international hub.
"From Qatar, our lawyers have advised and assisted many Qatari entities as well as parties in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Africa, Central Asia and the Far East on complex and high value arbitration matters," he said.
Stressing that without a strong and supportive legal system, clear rules, excellent facilities and credibility, parties are unlikely to be sufficiently persuaded to choose a particular regional institution; he said "an arbitration centre in Qatar which satisfies such requirements can establish a powerful presence regionally and internationally."
International arbitration is often a popular option for high-stakes cross border disputes.
Asked how NEBI can shape Qatar to be a leading hub for international commercial arbitration; he said "as and when Qatar establishes an international arbitration centre which can genuinely stand up to competition from established centres in places such as London and Singapore, there is no reason why the NEBI cannot lead to more dispute resolution clauses identifying such a centre."
Highlighting that total foreign direct investment from NEBI countries was estimated at more than $150bn in 2016; Qatar Financial Centre Authority chief al-Jaida had said "this economic initiative will bring us close to our regional partners, and will connect our businesses, which in turn, will increase the flow of FDI or foreign direct investment and create new opportunities across all sectors."
Asked about the current trend in commercial disputes especially during this pandemic time, Qureshi said the full commercial impact of the Covid-19 impact may well not surface until lockdowns are lifted completely and businesses try to operate in the “new normal”.