Qatar escalates UAE trade dispute, asks WTO to adjudicate

Published: October 13, 2017
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The World Trade Organization WTO logo is seen at the entrance of the WTO headquarters in Geneva. PHOTO: REUTERS

The World Trade Organization WTO logo is seen at the entrance of the WTO headquarters in Geneva. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA: Qatar has asked the World Trade Organisation to set up a dispute panel to adjudicate on its row with the United Arab Emirates, Qatar said in a document published by the WTO on Thursday, escalating a trade complaint it lodged with the WTO in July.

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.

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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 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.

They 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 in Syria, and allying with Iran, their regional foe, allegations Doha denies.

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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.

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