Mea­sures against Qatar do not vi­o­late WTO rules: UAE

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed on Qatar by three fel­low Gulf states do not vi­o­late World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion agree­ments, a United Arab Emi­rates of­fi­cial said, af­ter Doha launched a wide-rang­ing le­gal com­plaint at the Geneva-based body this week.

The UAE, Saudi Ara­bia and Bahrain 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 back­ing mil­i­tant groups and arch foe Iran, al­le­ga­tions Doha de­nies.

Qatar made the for­mal protest at the WTO on Mon­day by “re­quest­ing con­sul­ta­tions” with the three coun­tries, trig­ger­ing a 60-day dead­line for them to set­tle the com­plaint or face lit­i­ga­tion at the WTO and po­ten­tial re­tal­ia­tory trade sanc­tions.

“The sanc­tions im­posed by the UAE, Saudi Ara­bia and Bahrain did not con­tra­dict the agree­ments of the WTO,” UAE state news agency WAM quoted Juma Mo­hammed Al-Kait, an as­sis­tant un­der­sec­re­tary in the Econ­omy Min­istry, as say­ing late on Tues­day. In what ap­peared to be the first re­sponse to the Qatari move, he said the boy­cott - which in­cluded the sev­er­ing of diplo­matic and travel ties - was in line with ar­ti­cles 21 and ar­ti­cle 14 of the Gen­eral Agree­ment on Trade in Ser­vices (GATS), which al­lows such moves in the case of se­cu­rity ex­cep­tions.

The boy­cotting coun­tries have pre­vi­ously told the WTO they would cite na­tional se­cu­rity to jus­tify their ac­tions against Qatar, us­ing an the al­most un­prece­dented ex­emp­tion al­lowed un­der the WTO rules.

Kait said the agree­ments did not pre­vent WTO mem­ber states from us­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions to pro­tect ba­sic se­cu­rity in­ter­ests, or from car­ry­ing out the com­mit­ments in the United Na­tions Char­ter to main­tain peace and se­cu­rity, WAM re­ported. The WTO suit does not in­clude Egypt, the fourth coun­try in­volved in the boy­cott. Western-backed ef­forts by Gulf state Kuwait to me­di­ate have yielded lit­tle progress so far.

The dis­puted trade re­stric­tions in­clude Gulf bans on trade through Qatar’s ports and travel by Qatari cit­i­zens to the three Gulf coun­tries, block­ages of Qatari dig­i­tal ser­vices, clo­sure of sea bor­ders and the clo­sure of airspace to Qatari air­craft.

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