QATAR DIPLOMATIC CRISIS: THE WTO DISPUTE RULING

This article has been authored by Somya Kumari, a third-year student at WB National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata.





Introduction


In 2013 and 2014, the Gulf Cooperation Council Member States concluded the First Riyadh Agreement, and with the next long stretches of strategic commitment they went into various arrangements aggregately known as "the Riyadh Agreements". Under the Riyadh Agreements, Qatar promised to quit supporting or funding people who represent a danger to public safety, especially terrorist or militant groups. However, Qatar found to be funding and helping terrorist groups called HAMAS and had failed to satisfy its duties embraced under the Riyadh Agreements including other important commitments in International law i.e. the United Nations Charter, the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, UN Security Resolutions, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and other multilateral agreements that shows under the Organization of Islamic Collaboration. Through this, on 5 June 2017, Saudi Arabia ended all the strategic relations with Qatar. Later, several nations the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Bahrain joined and put a barricade on Qatar's region, sealing it via land, ocean, and air. All Qatar-enlisted airplanes were banned by the Arab nations from showing up at or leaving from their air terminals. They were denied the opportunity to overfly through their separate domains. Following the restrictions, Saudi Arabia blocked access and denied license to Qatar-based sport-television company called “beIN Media” which had the exclusive rights to play sporting events across the region, including Saudi Arabia and started streaming events unauthorizedly on a Saudi based entity, named, “beoutQ”, without confronting any assent, media content made or authorized to "beIN media" on commercial scale all through the domain of Saudi Arabia.


Qatar filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization against the 'blockade' by claiming that Saudi Arabia four major actions and omissions had prevented Qatar nationals from being able to protect their IPR and these restrictions were prohibiting the conveyance of beIN media content against the danger of loss of IPR, forcing travel restrictions on Qatar nationals, requiring ministerial approval for choices taken by the copyright council on infringement of copyright law, neglecting to apply criminal punishments against 'beoutQ' notwithstanding proof of its boundless infringement, and imposing anti-sympathy measures on Saudi Lawyers and other legal counsel as they will be put in threat if they defend Qatar nationals. On the other side, Saudi Arabia asserted Article 73(b) (iii) of the TRIPS Agreement, the principal referenced in the WTO multilateral agreement, that deals with national security exceptions which says that the state can invoke to defend their non-compliance with the TRIPS Agreement and therefore, in order to protect their essential national interests it is necessary to impose such restrictions for Qatar nationals.


After a long-waited decision over this issue, on July 17 2020, the WTO ruled that the restrictions imposed by the Saudi Arabia was contrary to the crucial standards of WTO laws, especially those agreements that are made on Trade of Goods & Services, Intellectual Property Rights, and WTO Trade facilitation agreement and recalled that Saudi Arabia’s adoption of such restrictive measures and activities against Qatar were their internal matters and therefore, ruled in favour of Qatar’s claims and requested the Saudi Arabia for reconciliations.


Whether these restrictions were contrary to the rules mentioned under WTO laws?


Looking into the issue of whether these restrictions were contrary to the rules mentioned under WTO laws. The WTO Panel finds that the anti-sympathy policies which are prohibited for BeIn Media, as a "license holder" from seeking any legal representation to exercise its intellectual property rights in Saudi courts, shows direct breach of the mandate of Article 42 (third sentence), of the TRIPS Agreement, which states that "Parties shall be permitted to be served by independent legal counsel." Accordingly, finding a breach of Article 42 resulted in a subsequent violation of the TRIPS Agreement's duty under Article 41.1 to "ensure that compliance measures as stated in this Part are accessible under statute."


Whether Saudi Arabia applying TRIPS Agreement was valid or not for legal adjudication?


Moving to the next issue i.e. whether Saudi Arabia in applying Article 73(b) (iii) of the TRIPS Agreement was valid or not for legal adjudication. Now, the WTO Panel observed that this agreement is more identical to Article XXI (b) (iii) of GATT,1994 which have been interpreted in Russia-Transit. It was observed by the Panel that the security exception is justified only when it rely on case a) to prohibit members from taking any risks it deems necessary to safeguard its national interests, b) taken in the event of a war or other emergency in international relations. The provision of "taken in time of" was interpreted to mean that the acts and the emergency had to be "chronologically concurrent", and when it comes for “emergency in international relations'' then it refers to “situation of armed conflict, or of heightened crisis, or instability in state which give rise to defence, or latent armed conflict, or requirement of military to maintain law and order of interests”. From the present case, observing all the severance of all diplomatic and economic ties and a circumstance of uplifted pressure and emergency between the nations in the midst of allegations of supporting terrorism, the WTO Panel found that there existed an "emergency in international relations". Further, the Panel additionally found that Saudi Arabia's enunciation of security interests, such as safeguarding itself against "dangers of violence and terrorism," seemed to be sufficiently precise and related to "quintessential state functions." Therefore, invocation of Article 73 of the TRIPS Agreement by Saudi Arabia was justified for legal adjudication.


Conclusion


Coming to the conclusion, I would like to say that the relation between the nations around the globe is centred around basic necessities, for example, defence, security, education, business, culture, and so forth shows no state can exist alone without being connected to different nations. The decision ruled by the WTO shows major chances to affect several countries economy as well as their diplomatic ties with other international countries. There are chances this will affect on India’s export system because India is a third largest export destination of Qatar. Any uncertainty in Qatar or the Gulf nation can have genuine unfavorable ramifications for India. Past a point, India can't remain detached. Given the reach, span and profundity of India's inclinations and its quickly growing political, financial and vital profile, at some point or another India should get all the more overwhelmingly occupied with managing improvements in this essential district. In the coming years, India should embrace an additional hand on arrangement in any security emergency or financial disturbance that may strike the area since its own security, monetary prosperity, and energy needs are largely firmly interlinked with this district. India appreciates great relations with all nations of the area. That ought to encourage India assuming a more nimble and incredible part in the district.

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