Qatar blocks UAE over false import ban charge

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DOHA: The State of Qatar has blocked the UAE’s request for the establishment of a panel during the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Body meeting held today.

“Qatar blocks the UAE’s request for the establishment of a panel during the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Body meeting today April 26th 2019. The claims brought by the UAE have no justification, as Qatar has reiterated its full commitment to the agreements of the WTO,” the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva tweeted yesterday.

It adds: “If UAE goods are unable to access the Qatari market, this is solely due to its unilateral measure of imposing an unjust/illegal blockade on Qatar. We are perplexed that the UAE continues to maintain these illegal measures, yet complains about lack of market access to Qatar.”

Qatar expressed its surprise that the United Arab Emirates has abruptly terminated consultations in the DS576 dispute and has rushed to seek the establishment of a panel.

The UAE’s complaint in DS576 is surreal because Qatar does not limit access for UAE goods to Qatar’s market. To the extent that UAE’s goods are unable to access Qatari markets, this is solely because of the UAE’s own measures that prohibit movement of goods between the UAE and Qatar.

To recall, the UAE has imposed a scheme of coercive and unlawful measures against Qatar, which is the subject to another ongoing dispute, DS526.

Qatar is perplexed that the UAE continues to maintain those measures, and yet complains of alleged lack of market access to Qatar. To the extent the UAE wishes to facilitate the access of its goods to the Qatari market, its recourse lies in removing its own unlawful measures, not in complaining about non-existent Qatari measures.

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If the UAE exporters are frustrated at not being able to access Qatar’s market, they should look closer to home to find the cause.

The UAE is imposing a blockade on Qatar, but due to the losses of its traders, it wants to export its goods to Qatar. UAE companies were conducting fraud (such as changing the exporter country and re-exporting through ports other than UAE ports) in order to avoid the ban imposed by their government on them.

Qatar has noted that the UAE has previously indicated that its own restrictive measures on exports to Qatar are necessary for national security purposes. With its new request, Qatar understands that the UAE no longer considers restrictions on export of goods to Qatar necessary for protecting its security interests.

That being the case, the UAE’s own export restrictions have no legal justification. Therefore, Qatar called on the UAE to immediately withdraw those measures.

Qatar also wished to comment on the stark contrast between Qatar’s conduct in the DS576 dispute and that of the UAE when Qatar requested consultations concerning the UAE measures on goods, services and IP rights in DS526.

It is pertinent to mention here that that the UAE refused in that case to engage in consultations with the State of Qatar.

By contrast, in DS576, and consistent with DSU obligations, Qatar participated in consultations in good faith when requested by the UAE to do so.

Qatar has expressed disappointment that the UAE continues to abuse the system by picking and choosing when to engage in consultations.

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Turning more specifically to DS576, there is no factual basis for the complaint. Unlike the UAE, Qatar remains open for business with all WTO Members and continues to adhere to all its international obligations.

If the State of Qatar intended to implement trade restrictions against the UAE, it would not be continuing to export more than $750m worth of Qatari gas each year to the UAE. Qatar continues to provide the UAE with more than 30% of its energy needs, despite the UAE’s coercive measures against Qatar.

All of the measures mentioned by the UAE in its DS576 panel request either never existed or have ceased to exist.

Qatar informed the UAE that certain documents, now listed in the UAE’s panel request, were temporary. Qatar issued these temporary documents to prevent illegal conduct and protect Qatari consumers. The relevant documents were subsequently rescinded and the circulars rescinding the earlier documents have been provided to the UAE.

The DSU admonishes Members to refrain from manifestly futile litigation. The dispute that the UAE now seeks to litigate, against non-existent Qatari measures, cannot possibly be fruitful. Qatar does not consider it appropriate for the WTO to spend its limited resources in facilitating litigation of a pointless dispute.

On these strong legal grounds, Qatar has objected to the establishment of a panel at the meeting.Courtesy:The Peninsula