WTO report on Saudi Arabia-Qatar case: Top takeaways explained

A silhouette of an official is seen with a logo of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as background at the Trade organisation headquarters in Geneva. (File photo: AFP)

Highlighting the fact that member states can take action to protect their essential national security, the World Trade Organization (WTO) released a report on Tuesday, stating that the security exception to the WTO's intellectual property protection agreement applied in the Saudi Arabia-Qatar case, justifying Riyadh's actions in the alleged piracy dispute case initiated by Doha.

The WTO panel found that Saudi Arabia’s actions were conducted during a time of "emergency" in international relations between the two countries.

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Here are some of the top takeaways explained:

'Security exception'

The WTO said Saudi Arabia met the requirements for invoking Article 73(b)(iii) of the TRIPS Agreement “arising from the measures that, directly or indirectly, have had the result of preventing beIN from obtaining Saudi legal counsel to enforce its IP rights through civil enforcement procedures before Saudi courts and tribunals.”

TRIPS, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, is a WTO multilateral agreement which covers protection of intellectual property.

There are exceptions to this agreement, including Article 73 which is titled “Security Exceptions.”

Article 73(b)(iii) states that nothing in the agreement shall be construed to prevent a member from taking any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations.

Severing ties

The WTO said that the “comprehensive measures” Saudi Arabia took after severing ties with Qatar in 2017 have no relevance in the dispute brought forth to the organization by Doha.

“There is also no rational or logical connection between the comprehensive measures aimed at ending interaction with Qatar and Qatari nationals, and the non-application of Saudi criminal procedures and penalties to beoutQ,” the WTO report stated.

Saudi Arabia had, along with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, cut diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism – a charge Doha denies.

The quartet also demanded that Qatar shut down the state-backed Al Jazeera media network, which they said incited terrorism and was a mouthpiece for extremists.

'Umbrella' of measures

One of the main parts of Qatar’s complaint was that beIN was denied access to Saudi courts to pursue proceedings regarding piracy of its content by beoutQ. However, the WTO states that the denial of access to the Saudi justice system to Qatari institutions and nationals is part of the Kingdom’s prerogative since it falls under the umbrella of the “comprehensive measures” it took when it severed ties with Qatar.

“The measures aimed at denying Qatari nationals access to civil remedies through Saudi courts may be viewed as an aspect of Saudi Arabia's umbrella policy of ending or preventing any form of interaction with Qatari nationals… As part of the comprehensive measures taken on June 5 2017, it is not implausible that Saudi Arabia might take other measures to prevent Qatari nationals from having access to courts, tribunals and other institutions in Saudi Arabia,” the report stated.

Read more:

WTO on the Qatar-Saudi Arabia case: Kingdom’s measures are within its rights

WTO report on Qatar-Saudi Arabia’s case is a ‘full victory’ for Kingdom: Legal expert

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Last Update: Wednesday, 17 June 2020 KSA 04:12 - GMT 01:12
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