The International Trade Practice Center on Bloomberg Law® provides in one comprehensive, time-saving resource.
Qatar attempted to sidestep a volatile World Trade Organization showdown this week by asking WTO’s chief negotiator to help resolve the ongoing economic blockade of the Qatari peninsula.
Qatar sent a letter Sept. 13 to WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo asking him to facilitate a mediation process known as “good offices” aimed at settling Qatar’s dispute with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Article 5 of the WTO’s dispute settlement understanding permits the director-general to serve as a neutral arbitrator in any dispute and use his “good offices” to reconcile members’ positions.
The move temporarily avoids an unprecedented WTO dispute over a country’s ability to defend its trade behaviors as a national security matter, although it remains unclear what the outcome of the talks will be.
Spokesmen for the WTO, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE did not respond to Bloomberg BNA’s requests for comment.
The development comes six weeks after Qatar filed requests for consultations with the Persian Gulf countries that alleged their closure of all land, sea, and airport links to the Qatari peninsula violated international trade rules.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE in response refused to engage in consultations, claimed that Qatar sponsored terrorism, and argued their trade restrictions were necessary to protect national security interests as permitted under WTO rules.
Certain provisions of the WTO’s core trade agreements — Article 21 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and Article 14 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services — provide members with broad flexibilities to enact trade measures that protect their national security.
Countries generally have eschewed the use of the WTO’s national security exemptions in defending their foreign trade restrictions for risk of sparking tit-for-tat trade retaliation.
Qatar’s request for a confidential mediation is a politically palatable route for the WTO’s top brass, which have privately fretted about a growing preoccupation with trade-related national security measures.
Earlier this year President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on foreign steel imports in the name of protecting U.S. security interests.
In addition, China cited security concerns to defend its new cybersecurity law, and a dispute between Russia and Ukraine has the potential to evolve into a national security dispute.
Good-offices consultations have been used by previous WTO directors-general to help resolve longstanding feuds like the EU-Latin American dispute over import tariffs on bananas.
These consultations are confidential and involve high-level discussions to help resolve the dispute without forcing the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism to evaluate the legal merits of a case.
Any party to the good offices talks may terminate them at any time after which a complainant is permitted to seek a WTO panel to investigate the dispute.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Geneva at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at email@example.com
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)