Statement by the United States at the Third Trade Policy Review of Qatar
David F. Bisbee, Chargé d’affaires, a.i.
Permanent Mission of the United States to the World Trade Organization
April 6, 2021
Thank you, Madam Chair. The United States is pleased to welcome H.E. Mr. Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwar, Minister of Commerce and Industry, and the rest of the delegation from Qatar to the third Trade Policy Review (TPR) of Qatar. We welcome the Secretariat and Government Reports and appreciate the opportunity to gain a clearer sense of the changes to Qatar’s trade and investment policies since its last review in 2014.
Qatar is an important economic partner of the United States, and we look forward to increased engagement on trade issues. While Qatar has reason to be pleased with the results of its efforts to date, the United States would like to highlight several areas that we believe need greater attention and a focus on swift resolution.
In particular, Qatar has yet to notify to the appropriate WTO Committee regarding a 2019 regulation establishing onerous shelf-life, fat content and other requirements for dairy products, despite requests from the United States and several other WTO Members to do so. The United States and several other WTO Members have also repeatedly requested that Qatar explain the objective of this regulation, provide a science-based explanation of how the requirements achieve its objectives, and work with trading partners to develop a solution that addresses the current restrictions to trade.
The United States remains disappointed that Qatar continues to require authentication of Certificates of Origin and Commercial Invoices at Embassies and/or Consulates prior to importation into Qatar. The United States has continuously questioned the necessity of any such requirements, since we cannot see any trade purpose such requirements serve. We would like to understand the trade purpose this practice serves, particularly in light of Qatar’s obligations under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. We also note that Qatar has yet to provide updates on its import, export and transit requirements, to the WTO Secretariat, the deadline for which was February 2017.
The United States understands that Qatar is currently considering revisions to the excise tax on beverages. We and other WTO Members have raised concerns in several fora about the implementation of this tax, and we have asked for an opportunity to consult with Qatar on necessary revisions, including switching to a graduated tax based on sugar content, ensuring that the tax covers all beverages in which the total sugar content – from either natural and/or added sugars – exceeds a minimum threshold, exempting low-calorie beverages and those with no added sugars, and ensuring that there is no discrimination between energy drinks and other beverages that have similar amounts of sugar.
The United States has also raised questions in a few other areas, including the transparency in the Qatari Quality Mark, ensuring recognition of exporting countries’ health certificates to ensure food safety, proper notification of certain government programs under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, the process and benefits of obtaining a copyright registration certificate, and how debt issuances are used by local State-Owned Enterprises.
In addition, as a wealthy nation, we call on Qatar to no longer seek special and differential treatment in current and future WTO negotiations. By taking this step, Qatar would make a significant contribution to ensuring that the WTO remains a viable forum for meaningful trade negotiations.
Qatar is a valued trading partner of the United States, and we hope that Qatar will find this review to be useful in its reform efforts. We thank the Government of Qatar in advance for its efforts to respond to our questions and concerns, and we plan to review its responses carefully and to request clarifications as necessary over the next two days.