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Qatar Takes The Gulf Crisis In Front Of WTO

Photo: The Peninsula

Qatar filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to challenge the trade blockade.

Qatar formally requested for consultations with the three nations, Qatar launched a 60 day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face the consequences at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

“We’ve given sufficient time to hear the legal explanations on how these measures are in compliance with their commitments, to no satisfactory result,” al-Thani said.

“We have always called for dialogue, for negotiations, and this is part of our strategy to talk to the members concerned and to gain more information on these measures, the legality of these measures, and to find a solution to resolve the dispute.”

The four nations severed ties with Qatar after accusing it of backing terrorism, which was denied by Doha.

Earlier, the blockading had told WTO that they would cite national security to justify their actions against Qatar. They also informed after the meet in Bahrain, that they were open for a dialogue, if they showed willingness to deal with their demands.

The text of Qatar’s WTO complaint cites “coercive attempts at economic isolation” and spells out how they are impeding Qatar’s rights in the trade in goods, trade in services and intellectual property.

While the complaints against Bahrain is six pages, the complaints on the remaining countries run up to eight pages.

The disputed trade restrictions include bans on trade through Qatar’s ports and travel by Qatari citizens, blockages of Qatari digital services and websites, closure of maritime borders and prohibition of flights operated by Qatari aircraft.

The complaint does not put a value on the trade boycott, and al-Thani declined to estimate how much Qatar could seek in sanctions if the litigation ever reached that stage, which can take 2-5 years or longer in the WTO system.

“We remain hopeful that the consultations could bear fruit in resolving this,” he said.

Egypt is not included in the WTO suit as it did not expel Qatari citizens or asked Egyptians to leave Qatar.

“Obviously all options are available. But we have not raised a consultation request with Egypt yet,” he said.

He added that Qatar would also highlight the impact the boycott was having on other WTO members. Qatar also raised the boycott at a meeting of the U.N.  International Civil Aviation Organization on Monday, al-Thani said.

Trade diplomats claimed that using national security as a defence risks weakening the WTO by removing a taboo that could allow nations to escape international trade obligations.

Al-Thani said governments had wide discretion to invoke the national security defence but it had to be subject to oversight.

“If it is self-regulating, that is a danger to the entire multilateral trading system itself. And we believe the WTO will take that into consideration.”

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