Qatar suspends WTO dispute with UAE as Gulf conflict thaws

GENEVA (Reuters) - Qatar has suspended its case at the World Trade Organization against the United Arab Emirates over measures it said were designed to isolate Qatar economically.

The suspension, announced in a document filed at the WTO on Tuesday, follows moves by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to end a boycott in which they severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar in 2017.

Doha launched a complaint at the WTO in that year over the UAE’s closure of its maritime border to Qatar, prohibition on Qatari aircraft entering its airspace, suspension of handling mail and closure of Qatari service suppliers’ offices.

A three-person WTO panel had been set to decide on the case in the first quarter of this year.

The document issued on Tuesday said Qatar had requested the panel reviewing the dispute suspend its work in order to facilitate an “amicable final settlement”.

A trade official said that the panel had agreed to do so. The panel’s authority to decide on the case will formally lapse if its work is suspended for more than 12 months.

Qatar launched similar cases against Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, although never requested a WTO panel intervene, meaning the cases are on hold.

Qatar also won a separate case against Saudi Arabia at the WTO in June, when a panel told Riyadh it had breached global rules on intellectual property rights by failing to prosecute a pirate broadcaster of sports and movies.

Saudi Arabia appealed against that finding, putting the case into a legal void, because the WTO’s appeals mechanism is paralysed. It has also since allowed Qatar-based beIN Sports, whose content had been pirated, to broadcast in Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Emma Farge and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Alison Williams, Steve Orlofsky, William Maclean