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Statement by Ambassador Michael Punke at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Qatar

Statement by Ambassador Michael Punke at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Qatar

World Trade Organization
Geneva, Switzerland
April 22-24, 2014 

 *As Delivered*

Thank you, Chairman.  The United States warmly welcomes, Minister Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani, and his delegation, for the second WTO Trade Policy Review of Qatar.

The United States and Qatar enjoy a broad, deep and robust bilateral relationship, with cooperation spanning many of the economic and security issues confronting the Middle East and the world.  On the commercial front, bilateral trade continues to expand.  In 2013, U.S. goods exports to Qatar were $5.0 billion, up 38.6% from 2012, while imports totaled $1.4 billion, a 33.0% increase from 2012.  Also, U.S. foreign direct investment in Qatar has increased 34.1% since 2011.  The United States also looks forward to continuing its work with Qatar and its Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partners through the U.S.-GCC Framework Agreement for Trade, Economic, Investment and Technical Cooperation to strengthen our economic ties.

We noted that since its last Trade Policy Review in 2005, Qatar has made efforts to deepen its participation in the multilateral trading system and maintain its commitments to the WTO, including by becoming a participant in the Information Technology Agreement in 2013.  We encourage Qatar – and its GCC partners – to work actively and indeed to play leadership roles in implementation of the recent Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Qatar continues to make economic progress, including by supporting economic diversification through trade liberalization, noting the important role of freer trade flows both in boosting the competitiveness of local businesses in areas other than hydrocarbon production and in enhancing the well-being of the Qatari people and the country in general.

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.  On investment, we encourage Qatar to consider carefully the impact of its existing investment restrictions on the investment climate.  For example, we urge Qatar to think seriously about whether allowing greater foreign investment without the requirement of a 51% share Qatari partner, and other revisions to its trade-related regulatory laws, would help Qatar to fulfill its untapped potential as an attractive investment destination.  In addition, we would like to make the related point that foreign investors do tend to favor locations that provide strong and effective intellectual property protection.  We encourage Qatar to establish the structures and issue the laws and regulations necessary to improve protection for patents and copyrights, including effective enforcement measures, all of which would further enhance Qatar’s status as an investment destination.

We also note the Government’s description of Qatar’s requirements for a “certificate of conformity” which seems highly burdensome.  We hope this TPR will shed light on this practice and the scope of its application during the course of this review.

Another issue relates to notifications, a critical aspect of our work here at the WTO.  Many of our questions for Qatar involve the submission of notifications in areas such as subsidies and countervailing measures, import licensing, and state trading enterprises – where notifications have not been made or where certain practices may exist that are not consistent with the information in Qatar’s notifications.  We encourage Qatar to update or submit its notifications as soon as possible, as appropriate.

The United States shares a positive and supportive economic partnership with Qatar, and we hope that Qatar will find this review to be useful not only in its reform efforts, but also in its efforts to enhance its WTO participation.  We thank the Government of Qatar in advance for its efforts to respond to our questions, and we plan to review its responses carefully and to request clarifications as necessary during the course of this TPR.  We look forward to continuing our work with Qatar and our trading partners to strengthen the global economy and the multilateral trading system embodied by the WTO, allowing trade and investment opportunities to expand. 

Mister Minister, we wish you and your team a successful review, and we look forward to further cooperation with Qatar, both here at the WTO and in our bilateral exchanges.  Thank you.