On July 31, Qatar moved to address its ongoing diplomatic impasse with neighbouring states by lodging a formal complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Just under two months ago, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain joined forces in imposing far-reaching measures against Qatar, accusing it of propping up several terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Hezbollah. The four states closed all sea and air links to Qatar, as well as suspending flights and imposing travel restrictions on Qatari nationals.
The WTO complaint marks the first step in the dispute resolution process, which begins with a 60-day period of negotiations in which the relevant states must attempt to reach a settlement. If negotiations aren’t successful, a WTO-appointed panel will reach its own verdict.
Since the embargo began, Qatar has managed to withstand the worst of the effects by rerouting imports through Turkey
Qatar’s Ministry of Economy and Commerce announced the move in a statement, in which it claimed that the four states were “violating the WTO’s core laws and conventions on trade of goods and services, and trade-related aspects of intellectual property”.
Upon submitting the WTO filing, Qatar’s Minister of Economy and Commerce, Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassem bin Mohammed Al-Thani, released a statement describing the blockade imposed by neighbouring states as an “illegal siege”. He further argued that the measures were “arbitrary” and consisted of “a clear violation of the provisions and conventions of international trade law”.
Since the embargo began, Qatar has managed to withstand the worst of the effects by rerouting imports through Turkey. And yet, the blockade has inevitably constituted a significant blow to the country’s economic stability, with official figures showing a 40 percent dip in imports.
The WTO complaint is the latest in a string of diplomatic clashes since the measures were first imposed. On June 23, the four Arab states drew up a list of demands, presenting Qatar with a 10-day window to comply. Qatar refused to adhere to any of the requests, which included closing the state-sponsored broadcaster Al Jazeera, reducing ties with Iran, and cutting ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.