*Complaint accuses blockading countries of violating WTO's core laws and conventions on trade of goods and services
*Doha requests formal consultations with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain by detailing all of the violations committed by them
Qatar has lodged a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body against the countries that have imposed a siege on Doha.
The Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) announced yesterday that the complaint accuses the siege countries of violating the WTO's core laws and conventions on trade of goods and services, and trade-related aspects of intellectual property.
The Office of the State of Qatar to the WTO in Geneva, in accordance with Article IV of the Understanding on Dispute Settlement in the Organization, has requested formal consultations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain by detailing all of the violations committed by them against the Qatar, in contravention of the various conventions overseen by the WTO.
The three Gulf States that imposed the illegal siege have, since June 5, severed diplomatic relations with Doha. Additionally, they have closed Qatar's only land border (with Saudi Arabia) and denied access to sea and airspace, violating the rights not only of Qatar, but also of its trading partners .
HE Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassem bin Mohammed al-Thani, Minister of Economy and Commerce, said the arbitrary measures taken by the siege countries are a clear violation of the provisions and conventions of international trade law. "Furthermore, the illegal siege is unprecedented in the framework of economic blocs."
The minister noted that this positive step taken by Qatar clearly demonstrates to all member countries of the WTO the level of transparency exhibited by Qatar through requesting formal and transparent dialogue and consultations with the siege countries in order to inform them of violations they have committed.
He said Qatar is asking these countries to sit at the dialogue table and start holding consultations.
The minister also stressed that Qatar has, respected, and continues to respect, all bilateral, regional and international agreements and that the Ministry of Economy and Commerce will take all necessary steps with regional and international organizations to defend their economic and commercial interests, and those of their partners in these fields.
Earlier, the minister had met in Geneva with the Director General of the World Trade Organization, as well as the President of the World Economic Forum and the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization.
The minister has also met with a group of lawyers from a firm specialising in WTO legal disputes. The firm was hired to study the illegal measures taken by the siege countries against Qatar.
Reuters adds from Geneva: By formally "requesting consultations" with the three countries, the first step in a trade dispute, Qatar triggered a 60-day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.
The director of Qatar's WTO office Sheikh Ali Alwaleed al-Thani told Reuters: "We've given sufficient time to hear the legal explanations on how these measures are in compliance with their commitments, to no satisfactory result.
"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 boycotting countries have previously told the WTO that they would cite national security to justify their actions against Qatar, using a controversial and almost unprecedented exemption allowed under the WTO rules.
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.
The complaints against Saudi Arabia and the UAE run to eight pages each, while the document on Bahrain is six pages.
There was no immediate reaction from the three to Qatar's complaint, which is likely to be circulated at the WTO later this week.
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.
"We remain hopeful that the consultations could bear fruit in resolving this," Sheikh Ali said.
The WTO suit does not include Egypt, the fourth country involved in the boycott. Although it has also cut travel and diplomatic ties with Qatar, Egypt did not expel Qatari citizens or ask Egyptians to leave Qatar.
"Obviously all options are available. But we have not raised a consultation request with Egypt yet," he said.
In its WTO case, Qatar would also draw attention to the impact the boycott was having on other WTO members, he added.
Many trade diplomats say that using national security as a defence risks weakening the WTO by removing a taboo that could enable countries to escape international trade obligations.
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