Qatar asks WTO to adjudicate on UAE trade dispute
October 12 2017 11:45 PM


Qatar has asked the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to set up a dispute panel to adjudicate on its trade row with the United Arab Emirates.
The filing for adjudication followed as the UAE refused to take part in talks to find a solution to the complaint filed by Qatar on July 31.
The initial complaint, which also included Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, triggered a 60-day window to settle the issue in talks without entering years of litigation.
But on August 10, Qatar received a communication from the chairman of the WTO's dispute settlement body stating that the UAE would not engage in consultations with Qatar, the Qatari submission to the WTO said.
"As a result of the UAE's refusal to engage in consultations with Qatar, the dispute has not been resolved," it said.
The document, published by the WTO on Thursday, did not mention Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and it was not immediately clear if Qatar would also ask for adjudication in its complaints against them.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE cut ties with Qatar - a major global gas supplier and host to the biggest US military base in the Middle East - on June 5, accusing it of financing militant groups and allying with Iran, allegations Doha denies.
They 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.
Adjudication of the dispute is not automatic. Under the WTO's rules, the UAE is allowed to reject Qatar's first request for a dispute panel, so Qatar has to ask two meetings of the dispute settlement body before a panel will be set up.
It said it would make the first request at the next meeting on October 24.
Qatar had filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the WTO in July end to challenge the trade boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.
By formally “requesting consultations” with the three countries, the first step in a trade dispute, Qatar had triggered a 60-day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.
After filing the complaint, director of Qatar’s WTO office Sheikh Ali Alwaleed 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 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 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 had not put a value on the trade boycott. Litigation can take 2-5 years or longer to reach a judgement in the WTO system.
The WTO suit does not include Egypt, the fourth country involved in the boycott.

Last updated: October 13 2017 12:03 AM

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