Arab bloc won’t dis­crim­i­nate against US firms

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

DUBAI: Four Arab coun­tries that im­posed sanc­tions on Qatar have told the United States that US com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness with them would not be pun­ished for also work­ing with Doha, four sources with knowl­edge of the mat­ter said. For­eign firms have be­come in­creas­ingly cau­tious on their cross bor­der deal­ings over con­cerns they could fall foul of the re­gion’s big­gest diplo­matic cri­sis in years.

Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain sent a let­ter to US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son in July re­as­sur­ing him that US com­pa­nies would not be dis­crim­i­nated against as part of the boy­cott, ac­cord­ing to sources with knowl­edge of the let­ter. The Euro­pean Union has been given sim­i­lar “of­fi­cial ... ver­bal as­sur­ances” by the UAE, the EU Del­e­ga­tion to the UAE told Reuters.

In the let­ter to Tiller­son, the four coun­tries said that they val­ued and in­tended to main­tain their re­la­tion­ships with U.S. com­pa­nies and that those ties would not be af­fected by the boy­cott, ac­cord­ing to a source who has seen the let­ter. The US Em­bassy in Abu Dhabi de­clined to com­ment on the let­ter. The four Arab states did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to Reuters ques­tions on the let­ter. Tiller­son made a four-day visit to the re­gion in July where he met both sides of the dis­pute and made pro­pos­als to help end the cri­sis. The four Arab coun­tries cut diplo­matic and trade links with Qatar on June 5, sus­pend­ing air and ship­ping routes with the world’s big­gest ex­porter of liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas and the home to the re­gion’s big­gest US mil­i­tary base.

Big Con­tracts to be Won

UAE Min­is­ter of State for For­eign Af­fairs An­war Gar­gash said on July 17 that the UAE would not ask for­eign com­pa­nies to choose be­tween do­ing busi­ness with it or Qatar. That fol­lowed com­ments from UAE Am­bas­sador to Rus­sia Omar Ghobash to Bri­tain’s Guardian news­pa­per on June 28 that com­pa­nies could be made to choose as part of a new round of sanc­tions on Qatar.

Top US com­pa­nies have large in­vest­ments in coun­tries on both sides of the dis­pute and there are big con­tracts to be won in wealthy Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE and Qatar. Saudi Ara­bia, the world’s largest oil ex­porter, signed busi­ness deals worth tens of bil­lions of dol­lars with US com­pa­nies dur­ing US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May. State-owned air­lines in the UAE and Qatar are lead­ing cus­tomers of US plane­maker Boe­ing, and Doha, which will host the 2022 World Cup, is seek­ing part­ners to take part in a huge ex­pan­sion of its gas pro­duc­tion. Some com­pa­nies have taken steps to re­struc­ture their Mid­dle East op­er­a­tions so that Qatar no longer re­ports to their re­gional head­quar­ters, of­ten lo­cated in Dubai, in a bid to avoid any con­flict. One of the sources said that there have been no known in­ci­dents of a US com­pany be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against by the four Arab coun­tries be­cause of the dis­pute with Qatar.

— AP

A pedes­trian walks past a re­flec­tion of the US Capi­tol in a rain pud­dle at day­break in Wash­ing­ton yes­ter­day.

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