ANATOMY OF THE CASE OF
ARAB COUNTRIES AND THE WTO
Bashar H. Malkawi*
Arab countries are attempting to broaden their engagement in the multilateral trading system in a manner that has many implications. Not only
have some Arab countries either acceded or are in the pipeline of acceding to the World Trade Organization (WTO), but their new commitments
coincide with reorientations in their economic strategies. The purpose of
this article is to examine the involvement in and implications of the multilateral trading system on Arab countries. The proposition in this article
is that the WTO is not a perfect institution. In WTO accession, politics
matter more than commerce or trade. I argue that joining the WTO is
a balancing act. As a result of economic liberalization, there would be
losers in the industries of Arab countries. However, governments should
compensate for any loss by ensuring better access to capital and establishing training programs to develop the skills of those dislocated.
The article proceeds to discuss in section I representation of Arab countries in the multilateral trading system. Section II examines accession of
Arab countries to the WTO and some of the obstacles they face in their
accessions. Section III discusses the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference
held in Qatar in 2001. Section IV studies participation of Arab countries
in the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. Section V analyzes the impact
of the multilateral trading system on Arab countries in selected sectors
such as agriculture and oil. Section VI uncovers the opposing positions
Â© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2006 Arab Law Quarterly 20,2
Also available online â€“ www.brill.nl
* Bashar H. Malkawi is Assistant Professor of international trade law at the Hashemite
University of Jordan. He holds an S.J.D in International Trade Law from American
University, Washington College of Law and an LL.M in International Trade Law
from the University of Arizona. I am indebted to Professor David Gantz at the
University of Arizona and Professor Padideh Alaâ€™i of American University, Washington
College of Law for their advice and comments on earlier drafts. I thank Donna Butler,
Meytal Kashi, and Nihan Keser for their editorial help.
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 111
of Arab officials and civil societies in Arab countries toward globalization
and the multilateral trading system.
I. Arab Countriesâ€™ Representation in the Global Multilateral Trading System
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (hereinafter GATT) 1947
was negotiated by twenty-three countries. As an agreement, it never itself
came into force. GATT was always applied provisionally through the
Protocol of Provisional Application.1 The GATT operated as an agreement
and a pragmatic institution.2 The GATT 1947 was a code under which
countries would conduct their mutual commercial relations. The purpose
of GATT was to establish an open system of world trade between the contracting parties. It was the beginning for a series of negotiations that ended
up with the establishment of the WTO in 1994. The end of the Uruguay
Round brought with it legalization of world trade politics after GATT was
considered a geopolitical document created to contain the spread of nonmarket ideology to other countries. As some legal scholars and WTO
members claim, the WTO has become a rule-based trade body. The
Uruguay Round results both clarified and extended existing GATT obligations in virtually every facet, i.e., goods, services, and intellectual property.
From the birth of the GATT in 1947, until 1993, few Arab countries
have joined the GATT-type multilateral trading system.3 Like many other
developing countries, Arab countries, after the end of colonialism, called
for a new world economic order that would take their development needs
1 In order to enter into force, article XXVI.6 of GATT 1947 requires governments
with a minimum share of world trade to deposit their instruments of acceptance. However, few countries did so. Therefore, GATT was applied through the Protocol of
Provisional Application. See Protocol of Provisional Application to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, signed Oct. 30, 1947, 61 Stat. A2051, 55 U.N.T.S. 308. 2 As the acronym of the GATT indicates, GATTâ€™s scope was limited only to tariffs
and trade in goods. GATT 1947 did not contain rules aimed at the liberalization of
trade in services and other sectors. An example of GATT 1947 pragmatism is article
XXV (3) & (4) which calls for one vote per nation and decisions to be taken by
majority vote. However, in practice, consensus was developed among parties. 3 Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia were the only countries to
join the GATT 1947. For example, Egypt and Tunisia first acceded to the GATT
provisionally. Provisional accession means that GATT contracting parties extend GATT
rights, including tariff concessions, to acceding countries if the latter reciprocate.
However, acceding countries did not have a direct right regarding tariff concessions
negotiated prior to their accession to the GATT. In other words, acceding countries
were not entitled to compensation in case tariff concessions were withdrawn.
112 bashar h. malkawi
into account.4 Thus, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was born. The UNCTAD was set up as a permanent
organ of the U.N General Assembly in 1964, and it meets every four years.5
In UNCTAD, negotiations were conducted by the bloc approach, with
â€œthe Group of 77â€ representing the developing countries. UNCTAD can
be best described as the developing countriesâ€™ GATT. Over the span of
its life, UNCTADâ€™s most cited achievement is the Generalized System
of Preferences (GSP) whereby developed countries give preferential, nonreciprocal, and non-discriminatory treatment to developing countriesâ€™ trade.
Although the GSP has functioned with relative success, its limited coverage
of beneficiary countries and products, coupled with conditions that beneficiary
countries must meet before being eligible for such a preferential treatment,
led to disgruntled feelings on the part of recipients. Moreover, many of
UNCTADâ€™s tasks now fall within the contours of the WTO, whose
membership is essentially the same. However, UNCTAD still has a role to
play, even though the WTO made UNCTAD relatively anachronistic.6
II. The Political Economy of Multilateralism in Arab Countries
The absence of some Arab countries from participation in the WTO is
due to the fact that the U.S. is blocking the establishment of working
parties to examine their applications.7 Since 2000, Jordan and Oman have
4 The main reason for not joining the GATT system was the doctrine of reciprocity embedded in GATT. The doctrine of reciprocity obliges countries to reciprocate their concessions. See Adeoye Akinsanya & Arthur Davies, Third World Quest
for a New International Economic Order: An Overview, 33 INTâ€™L & COMP. L. Q. 208
(1984). 5 UNCTAD held its first meeting in 1964 in Geneva, Switzerland. See Kele
Onyejekwe, International Law of Trade Preferences: Emanations from the European Union and
the United States, 26 ST. MARYâ€™S L. J. 425, 447 (1995) (the foundation of the new
international economic order movement was the theory of â€œstructuralismâ€, which
called for a fundamental realignment of the international order to correct deep imbalances between developed and developing countries that would, if uncorrected, perpetuate underdevelopment). 6 See Jagdish Bhagwati, A Stream of Windows: Unsettling Reflections on Trade,
Immigration, and Democracy 29-35 (1998) (recalling the glory of UNCTAD under
the leadership of Raul Prebisch as an institution that was ahead of the curve. The
memory of the institution has faded in OECD countries where it has become commonplace in some influential quarters to think of UNCTAD as if it was instead UNWASHED
and UNKEMPT. It has been criticized that the institution focuses on politics rather
than economics, and that it is too partisan). 7 To join the WTO, a working party needs to be established to negotiate terms
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 113
been the last Arab countries to accede to the WTO. If the U.S. is sincerely engaged with Arab countries, it should allow them entry into the
WTO at an accelerated rate.
Of the 148 current members of the WTO, there are only eleven Arab
countries. Algeria, Comoros, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, the Palestinian Authority,
Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen have all lined up for
accession to the WTO. However, applications of some of Arab countries
for admission to the WTO are â€œclinically deadâ€.8 Other Arab countriesâ€™
applications are at a â€œstandstillâ€.9 The U.S. supports applications of accession for only handpicked Arab countries that are considered â€œpeacefulâ€,
however this term maybe interpreted.10 The following is a discussion of
the status of Arab countriesâ€™ accession to the WTO and the hurdles they
face in their accessions.
Iraq became an observer at the WTO overnight.11 Iraq has already
adopted several orders that liberalize trade policy.12 For example, a new
of accession, and the General Council, which operates by consensus, must agree to
form the working party. See Raj Bhala, Challenges of Poverty and Islam Facing American
Trade Law, 17 ST. JOHNâ€™S J. LEGAL COMMENT. 471, 508 (2003). 8 See Daniel Pruzin, U.S. Blocks Iranian WTO Application; Syria Prevented from
Placement on Agenda, 19 Intâ€™l Trade Rep. (BNA) 36 ( Jan. 3, 2002) (stating that
Syriaâ€™s request for membership in the WTO was blocked because of Syriaâ€™s backing
for the Arab League trade boycott of Israel). 9 See Daniel Pruzin, U.S., EU Push Saudis to Improve Market Access Offers for
WTO Entry, 17 Intâ€™l Trade Rep. (BNA) 1654 (Oct. 26, 2000). 10 See Grary G. Yerkey, U.S. and Saudi Arabia Sign Agreement that Could Lead
to Free Trade Negotiations, 20 Intâ€™l Trade Rep. (BNA) 1353 (Aug. 7, 2003) (citing
the term â€œpeaceful countriesâ€ used by [former] USTR Robert Zoellick). 11 See Brussels Resists Demand for Iraq WTO Seat, Financial Times, Jan. 26,
2004, at 4 (the EC resisted a demand by the U.S. and Britain, backed by U.S. VicePresident Dick Cheney, that Iraq be given a WTO seat. The U.S. argues that a
WTO seat for Iraq would help its reconstruction and adaptation to a market economy. On the other hand, the EC argues that Iraq does not have a government that
has control over its trade policy). Ultimately, however, Iraq was granted, on a silver
plate, a seat at the WTO as observer, which would allow it to attend WTO meetings but not participate in decision-making or table proposals for negotiations. See
Iraq Takes First Step to Join WTO, Financial Times, Feb. 12, 2004, at 14. 12 See Judith Richards Hope & Edward N. Griffin, The New Iraq: Revising Iraqâ€™s
Commercial Law is a Necessity for Foreign Direct Investment and the Reconstruction of Iraqâ€™s
Decimated Economy, 11 CARDOZO J. INTâ€™L & COMP. L. 875, 877, 878 (2004) (citing the Coalition Provisional Authority order no. 12, which liberalized trade policy
by suspending a number of tariffs and trade restrictions. The Coalition Provisional
Authority also issued order no. 39, which instituted far ranging free-market reforms
114 bashar h. malkawi
foreign investment law was passed in 2003 permitting 100 percent foreign ownership of firms in all sectors of the economy, aside from oil and
other mineral extraction. Iraq has also modernized its existing intellectual property regime by using the laws of Jordan and the United Arab
Emirates as examples, to bring it into compliance with international standards. Iraqâ€™s overall purpose with these changes is to assist its participation in the WTO.
Opening the fragile Iraqi banking system, where lending to the private
sector made up one-half of 1 percent total commercial bank assets lending in 2004, would create a regime more favorable to mega-foreign banks.
Iraqi banks may not have enough capitalization to compete with foreign
banks. The subsidized agriculture sector is also set for reform.13 Similar
to the example of Iraqi banks, reform in the Iraqi agriculture sector would
benefit the agri-businesses of the U.S. and other major agricultural exporters.
Likewise, Iraqi higher education is also slated for market-oriented reform.
It is no longer the responsibility of the government to find graduates jobs;
college graduates would be responsible for their own career searches.
In a country ravaged by war, where only a small percentage of U.S.-
appropriated funds have been put into action, and prime reconstruction
contracts are limited to companies from the U.S., Iraq, and forcecontributing nations such as Australia and Poland, has little time for the WTO
work.14 Furthermore, with many decades of a paternalistic cradle-to-grave
throughout Iraq in every sector, except for natural resources, banking and insurance.
For banks, after the end of a five-year period, there will be no limitations on the
entry of foreign banks). 13 See Ariana Eunjung Cha, Iraqis Face Tough Transition to Market-based Agriculture,
Wash. Post, Jan. 22, 2004, at A01 (Iraq has 5 million agricultural workers, mostly
family farmers. In old Iraq, the state provided seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, sprinklers,
and tractors at low cost. The Coalition Provisional Authority is determined to create
a capitalist economy where the state provides little, if any, support. The U.S. and
Australia [major agriculture exporters] are taking the lead in rehabilitating the Iraqi
agricultural sector. After first purchasing and then destroying Iraqi wheat in 2003
because it was of low quality, the gap in food supply was made up with $190 millionsâ€™ worth of wheat from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, courtesy of the U.S.). 14 See Resolution of Cultural Property Disputes 23-29 (The International Bureau
of the Permanent Court of Arbitration ed., 2004) (discussing, in part, the tragic looting of many of Iraqâ€™s museums as a recent example of how vulnerable cultural property is to theft, damage, and destruction. As time has gone by, legal rules have been
developed for the protection of cultural property during hostilities, represented in the
1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of
Armed Conflict. One of the obligations included in article 5 of the Convention is
that occupying forces must, as far as possible, support the competent national authority
of the occupied country in protecting cultural property. It is an obligation of stewardship.
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 115
government policy, it is hardly conceivable that such reforms would make
life easier for Iraqi citizens. Iraq needs gradualism, not an instant trade
liberalization, to advance from a closed economy dominated by stateowned monopolies and subsidies toward a competitive and modern economy open to world trade.
Algeria has been seeking WTO membership for seventeen years, beginning in June 1987. Its accession negotiations are moving at a snailâ€™s pace.15
A sticking point is the import ban on alcohol.16 Some of the stumbling
issues in Algeriaâ€™s accession to the WTO include the introduction of new
agricultural export subsidies, application of tariff-rate quotas, and whether
WTO agreements would automatically take precedence over any conflicting
internal regulations. Due to these hurdles, it seems that Algeria might top
China in terms of the length of time before being able to secure WTO
Of the twenty-three original contracting parties to the GATT 1947, only
two, Lebanon and Syria, were from the Arab Middle East. However,
Lebanon withdrew from GATT four years later. Today, Lebanon is not
This did not take place in Iraq. Neither the U.K. nor the U.S. is a party to the
Hague Convention. The experience of UNESCO in many conflict situations shows
that only the tiniest fraction of looted materials will be returned). For more on the
dispute between the U.S. and EC over a procurement bar on bidding on $18.6 billion in reconstruction projects in Iraq see USTR Argues Iraq Contract Exclusion Fall
within WTO Rules, INSIDE U.S. TRADE, Dec. 12, 2003 (the U.S. argues that
Iraqâ€™s Coalition Provisional Authority, along with the Defense Department which is
responsible for awarding procurement contracts, is not a listed entity covered by the
WTO GPA. As such there is no need to invoke [article XXIII of the GPA] â€œessential securityâ€ exception to justify the use of noncompetitive procedures in awarding
these contracts. In the alternative, the U.S. can argue that these contracts are foreign aid which is not subject to the U.S. commitments under GPA). 15 See Daniel Pruzin, WTO Members Discuss Accession of Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq
Explores Membership Process, 20 Intâ€™l Trade Rep. (BNA) 2079 (Dec. 18, 2003)
(Algeria talks stumbled over its ban on imports of alcohol. The Algerian parliament
introduced a ban, which was proposed by religious factions, on imports of alcohol as
part of the budget bill that would expire at the end of 2004). 16 Other WTO members are likely to argue that the basis of the import ban on
alcohol is not religious, but, rather, to protect the Algerian brewery industry, especially wine.
116 bashar h. malkawi
a member of the WTO because it withdrew from the GATT in 1951.
Lebanon did not attempt to join the GATT/WTO until 1999.17
In 1950, Lebanon notified the contracting parties of its intention to
withdraw from the GATT.18 The only hint for withdrawal was the need
One may suspect that the reason for Lebanese withdrawal was the
consideration by Israel to join the GATT.19 Lebanon had at its disposal
an alternative option that it could have invoked, rather than an outright
withdrawal. Article XXXV of the GATT clearly stipulates that the GATT
will not apply between a contracting party (Lebanon in that case) and
an acceding one (Israel) if either one of them does not agree to its application to the other party â€œat the time of accessionâ€.20 Resorting to article XXXV is more convincing, especially that article XXXV was added
at the first session of the contracting parties in 1948, well before Lebanonâ€™s
withdrawal.21 Therefore, Lebanon could have employed article XXXV if
Israel was to accede to the GATT.
17 The Working Party on accession of Lebanon was established in Apr. 1999. 18 Then Lebanese Foreign Minister Philippe Takal communicated his governmentâ€™s
intention to withdraw from GATT 1947 without further elaboration for the reasons
of withdrawal. In his communication he said, â€œI have the honor to inform you that
owing to the necessity of readapting decided to denounce the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade signed in Geneva on 30 Oct. 1947, and this is in conformity with
Paragraph 5 of the Protocol of Provisional Application signed on the same date.
Lebanon wishes nevertheless to remain a member of the General Conference of the
ITOâ€. See Notifications of Withdrawal: Lebanon, Dec. 27, 1950, 77 U.N.T.S. 367. 19 See Israelâ€™s Present Position in Relation to G.A.T.T., 2:2 Economic News 75,
76-78 (Dec. 1949) (The advantages of Israelâ€™s adherence to GATT would mean that,
within the framework of the MFN doctrine, it would find itself in possession of rights
similar to those of other GATT states. The main disadvantage of acceding to the
GATT is the restriction of freedom to enter into bilateral agreements affecting trade
policy. Since Israel was only at the first stages of developing its economy, it might
be premature to give up now Israelâ€™s liberty to find out which principles it has to
choose as definite). In 1947, the government of the United Kingdom, acting as a
mandatory power for Palestine, opened negotiations for the accession of Palestine to
the GATT. Negotiations for Palestineâ€™s accession resulted in Schedule XIX, that contained concessions granted by the government of the United Kingdom. However,
after the United Kingdom ceased to act as a contracting party to the GATT with
respect to Palestine, Israel made no declaration indicating its willingness to be bound
by GATT. See The Position of Palestine in Relation to the Agreement: Item 8 of
the Agenda to the Annecy GATT Conference, Apr. 29, 1949, GATT Doc. No.
GATT/CP.3/17, p. 1. 20 India set a precedent when it became the first country to invoke article XXXV
in 1948 with respect to South Africa. Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia invoked article
XXXV of GATT with respect to Israel upon their accession to the GATT. See Ariel
M. Ezrahi, Opting Out of Opt-Out Clauses: Removing Obstacles to International Trade and
International Peace, 31 L & POLY IN INTâ€™L BUS 123, 138 (1999). 21 See GATT Analytical Index: Guide to Gatt Law And Practice 961 (6th ed. 1994).
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 117
Lebanonâ€™s talks for accession to the WTO are still at early stage. The
working party on Lebanon accession met in 2003, for the first time since
1999.22 Thus far, Lebanon tabled its offer for market access in goods and
services. Lebanon agreed to reduce tariffs on agricultural and industrial
goods to 12.5 percent. Further, Lebanon promised to liberalize mobile
phone services, fixed-line telecommunications, and port services.
If one can draw on the experience of China and Taiwan accession to
the WTO, Lebanon may not accede except after Syriaâ€™s accession to the
WTO. In the alternative, Lebanon and Syria may accede to the WTO
simultaneously to reduce tensions between the two neighbors. Either way,
Lebanonâ€™s efforts would be handicapped by Syriaâ€™s own accession.
Like Lebanon, Syria followed suit and withdrew from the GATT.23 Today,
Syria is not a member of the WTO because it withdrew from the GATT
in 1951. Syria did not attempt to join the GATT/WTO 2001.24
Syria has taken several steps on the path of economic reform. These
include increased imports, such as vehicles, and permitting the private
sector to venture into such fields as banking, telecoms, TV production, and
higher education. In the context of these reform initiatives, Syria applied
for WTO membership in October 2001. However, four years have passed
since it submitted its application, and no accession is on the horizon.
Syria is a rogue state, and the U.S. State Department claims that it
supports international terrorism and the Arab trade boycott on Israel,
and harbors elements of the former Iraqi regime. It is unlikely that Syriaâ€™s
application to the WTO will be honored anytime soon, especially after the
U.S. Congress passed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty
Restoration Act of 2003.25 The Act orders the U.S. President to impose
sanctions against Syria by blocking U.S. exports of any item on the U.S.
Munitions List. Moreover, the U.S. President must also choose two or
more sanctions from a menu of six options, including: prohibiting all
22 See Pruzin, supra note 15. 23 See Notifications of Withdrawal: Syria, June 7, 1951, 90 U.N.T.S. 324. 24 A formal request for accession under Article XII of the WTO was sent to the
Director-General of the WTO by Syria on Oct. 10, 2001 and was circulated to WTO
members on Oct. 30, 2001. 25 See Syria Sanctions Bill Passes Senate with Lugar Amendment, INSIDE U.S.
TRADE, Nov. 14, 2003, at 13.
118 bashar h. malkawi
exports of U.S. products to Syria with the exception of food and medicine, prohibiting U.S. businesses from operating or investing in Syria, calling for U.S. financial institutions to sever dealings with the Commercial
Bank of Syria, freezing of assets belonging to certain Syrian individuals
and government entities, and prohibiting aircraft of any air carrier owned
or controlled by Syria to take off, land in, or fly over the U.S. The
President has the flexibility to waive sanctions if he determines it is in
the U.S. national security interest. U.S. trade sanctions on Syria may
have little impact on its economy since trade between the two countries
amounted to only $472 million in 2003. Additionally, Syria neither operates flights to the U.S. nor receives U.S. aid.
Libya submitted its accession application in November 2001.26 Nonetheless,
the application was blocked by the U.S. because Libya allegedly supports
terrorism. On July 27, 2004, WTO members agreed to set up a working party to examine Libyaâ€™s accession. However, despite headways in
the US-Libyan relationship, Libya still has a long road ahead. The U.S.
has adopted a step-by-step approach toward Libyanâ€™s accession.27 In April
26 A ministerial committee was established to prepare for negotiations with the
WTO immediately after the Deputy Director-General of the WTO concluded his visit
to Tripoli in Oct. 2001. 27 The U.S. Liaison Office in Tripoli stated that the pace of travel to Libya is still
hampered by visa difficulties. Thus, the U.S. Liaison Office advises those who plan
to travel to Libya to apply for a visa three to six weeks in advance. See Gray G.
Yerkey, U.S. May Soon Lift Ban on Travel to Libya, Bowing to Pressure from
Business, Congress, 21 Intâ€™l Trade Rep. (BNA) 289 (Feb. 12, 2004). The U.S. terminated the need for license from the Treasury Department to trade with Libya,
allowed direct air service and regular charter flights, and lifted the prohibition against
financing through direct loans, credits, and guarantees by the U.S. Ex-Im Bank and
other government agencies. In addition, on the same date, the U.S. terminated the
national emergency declared in 1986 under the International Emergency Economic
Powers Act with respect to Libya, and released frozen assets belonging to Libya. New
regulations were issued that would allow U.S. companies to interact with U.S. made
products that were illegally exported or re-exported to Libya before the U.S. trade
embargo was removed. However, the U.S. still bans programs of the Overseas Private
Investment Corporation in Libya. Moreover, the State Department still classifies Libya
as a state sponsor of terrorism, thus prohibiting, with the exception of farm products
and medicine, purchasing U.S. military equipment such as radioactive materials and
explosives, and restricting, through export controls, U.S. high-tech and encrypted
exports such as computers and software. In order for Libya to be taken off the list
of countries supporting terrorism, there must be efforts by the State Department,
notification of Congress, and formal or informal congressional consent.
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 119
2004, the U.S. terminated the application of the Iran Libya Sanctions
Act to Libya. Moreover, in September 2004, the U.S. lifted its eighteen
year ban on trade between the two countries. The U.S. would help Libya
modernize its economy and infrastructure, which is largely dependent on
gas and oil, ease price controls, and invigorate a working private sector.
F. The Palestinian Authority
In 2001, the Palestinian Authority sent a twenty-four member delegation
for a two-day visit to the WTO to address the issue of its own WTO
accession.28 The Palestinian Authority adopted a foreign trade regime similar to that of Israel.29 However, the U.S. and Israel are still likely to
oppose the Palestinian Authority application because of the tension between
the Palestinians and Israelis.30 The WTO agreements are trade agreements, and discussions of broader international law issues should be left
to other institutions.
Even if there is no tension between the Palestinians and Israelis, the
U.S. and Israel may raise a technical point in opposition to Palestinian
accession. While under article XXXIII of GATT 1994, a â€œgovernmentâ€
possessing full autonomy in the conduct of its external commercial relations was required for accession, article XII of the WTO Charter allows
a â€œstateâ€ or â€œseparate customs territoryâ€ to join its membership ranks.
The Palestinian Authority is clearly a government, but whether the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank form a state is an open question.31
28 See Palestinian Authority Prepares to Pursue WTO Membership; Observer Status
First Step, d82 WTO Rep. (BNA) (May 17, 2001). 29 Id. As a result of the peace truce, a customs union is formed between Israel,
the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. 30 Id. The U.S. and Israeli objections prove that WTO accession is not a rulebased process but rather power-based. 31 Israel usually refers to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as the Territories or
Areas. If the U.S. and Israel raise the technical point, the Palestinian Authority may
argue that the U.N gave its predecessor, the Palestinian Liberation Organization
(PLO), an observer status, a position that allowed the PLO to participate in its discussions. See Press Release G.A. 9427, U.N. GAOR, 52nd Sess., 89th mtg. (1998).
Moreover, the U.S. extended its GSP scheme to cover Palestinian goods. As such,
Palestinian goods would enter the U.S. at a preferential rate. Therefore, this implies
a statehood status. See Proclamation No. 6778, 60 Fed. Reg. 15, 455 (1995).
120 bashar h. malkawi
G. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has been an observer since 1986. It formally submitted its
admission application in 1993. One would question why the Saudis have
extended the period of accession to GATT/WTO, despite the fact that
they are prominent players in the World Bank and the IMF, which mandate and advocate liberalization policies.32 Whether Saudi Arabiaâ€™s accession to the WTO in 2004 is â€œimminent realityâ€, the fact remains that
one cannot predict when it might happen.33 Accession could take place
be as late as 2006 or 2007.
With respect to its WTO application, Saudi Arabia has opened its
markets to telegraph and fax services, Vsat and GMPCS services, Internet
provision services, and online information and database retrieval services
to non-Saudi operators. Saudi Arabia has also passed several trade-related
laws, including regulations that liberalize capital markets. However, as a
result of the Saudis putting some 100 reservations in market access where
liberalization would not apply, negotiations might take a sharp turn.34
32 One can speculate that due to the nature of the Saudi economy and its potential impact on world trade, WTO members are taking a tougher stance on its accession to the WTO. See Tomer Broude, Accession to the WTO: Current Issues in the
Arab World, 32 J.W.T. 147, 153 (1998) (stating that the Saudi economy ranks among
the twenty largest economies in the world and among the fifteen largest importers). 33 The accession negotiations ground to a halt in early 2001 after Saudi Arabia
published a negative list on investment, prohibiting access to foreigners in key sectors such as oil exploration. However, Saudi Arabiaâ€™s accession to the WTO received
a new momentum after the departure of Osama Faqih, former Saudi commerce minister, who was considered an obstacle for moving the accession talks, and the appointment of Hashim Yamani as the new one. Moreover, the conclusion of some sixteen
bilateral deals with trading partners, including the one with the EC in Sep. 2003,
provided another impetus for negotiations. Some trade diplomats suspect that Saudi
Arabia may wrap up negotiations in 2004. See U.S., Saudi Arabia Stalled on Insurance
Law, INSIDE U.S. TRADE, Sept. 17, 2004 (the most contentious negotiations are
with the U.S. over market access in financial services and insurance [branching rights
for foreign insurers. Generally, branching is preferred over establishing subsidiaries
since the latter require more capital and are less efficient]. Feeling a sense of urgency,
the Saudis are ready to travel to capitals to resolve outstanding issues. The Saudisâ€™
push for accession is due in part to the desire to improve the strained relations with
Washington after Sep. 11). An interesting point in Saudi Arabiaâ€™s accession to the
WTO is whether it should be classified as a developing, advanced developing, or
developed country. If it is classified as a developing country, it may qualify for benefits,
if any, accruing to developing countries in their accession to the WTO. 34 See Saudis Flexible on Easing Investment Curbs During WTO Accession Talks,
Report States, d1 WTO Rep. (BNA) (Feb. 5, 2004) (the latest draft report of WTOâ€™s
working party on accession cites that foreign investment in audiovisual, satellite
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 121
Some of these reservations can be qualified as measures to preserve Islamic
values and traditions. As an example, Saudi Arabiaâ€™s media interests
(audiovisual), which are state-censored for content, are occupied with patriotic programming and are off-limits to non-Saudi interests. Global media
interests such as Viacom will not be allowed to own shares in TV production companies or invest in joint production projects with Saudi media
companies. If other WTO members raise objections to these reservations,
Saudi Arabia can argue that France was permitted a â€œcultural exemptionâ€ clause during the Uruguay Round negotiations. Other Saudi reservations, such as those on prepaid mobile phone cards, can hardly qualify
to preserve Islamic values.
Saudi Arabiaâ€™s accession to the WTO goes beyond concerns over its
import ban on booze and cigarettes. There are several other concerns
with respect to the Saudi application. The application of customs valuation, import licensing, and precedence of international law over domestic law are major concerns for trading partners of Saudi Arabia. Other
obstacles include the huge subsidies paid to rich farmers for growing
wheat in the Saudi desert. In addition, the Dominican Republicâ€™s and
Hondurasâ€™ sudden requests for bilateral talks with Saudi Arabia mean
further delays. Some U.S. congressmen oppose Saudi Arabiaâ€™s accession
because of its support of the Arab trade boycott of Israel, the Saudi
human rights record, and fears about terrorism. Finally, the U.S. State
Departmentâ€™s designation of Saudi Arabia, under the International Religious
Freedom Act of 1998, as a Country of Particular Concern could prove
a sticking point in negotiations.
Regardless of Saudi progress towards trade liberalization, realistically,
after accession, Saudi Arabia may need one to two years at minimum to
learn the mechanics of the WTO, and develop a large legal staff to assist
in pursuing effective membership in the WTO. The latter point seems
elusive considering that many Arab countries have small delegations dedicated to the WTO. In addition, Saudi Arabia may need more time to
familiarize itself with the thousands of pages of WTO trade rules.
transmission, land/air transport, real estate are off-limits. The reportâ€™s appendix sets
out some seventy-three products that are prohibited from importations. They include
alcohol, pork, satellite internet receivers, mobile phones fitted with cameras, video
boosters, animal fertilizers, asbestos, used tires, mobile phone chips, prepaid mobile
phone cards, and electronic greeting cards).
122 bashar h. malkawi
Sudan, usually a forgotten country when speaking about international
trade, even though it is an important exporter of gum Arabic, and the
largest country in the African continent, is outside of the WTO club.35
Sudan has adopted an open-oriented policy that includes trade liberalization.36 However, Sudan is unlikely to accede to the WTO anytime
soon, especially in light of the sanctions imposed on it due to suspicions
it supports terrorist organizations. Moreover, a proposed legislation in the
108th and 109th U.S. Congress (H.R. 5414) could cut off foreign tax
credits and tax deferrals to U.S. companies doing business in Sudan until
it ends genocide in the Darfur region. Similarly to Syria, Sudan is usually considered a pariah state.
Comoros, a small island state, is another forgotten Arab country when
speaking about WTO membership. Comoros has been the recipient of
preferential treatment from developed countries, such as under the Canada
Least Developed Country Tariff treatment and by the U.S. under the
GSP program and the African Growth and Opportunity Act.37 Furthermore,
Comoros has takes several steps to reform its trade regime.38 Since Comoro
has a vulnerable economy with a weak supply capacity, WTO members
35 The WTO had set up a working party on Sudanâ€™s accession since 1994. 36 The policy of Sudan focuses on enhancing the agricultural sector, which employs
about 70 percent of the population, attracting foreign investors, including Islamic and
Arab funds by reducing taxes and tariffs, reducing the inflation rate from 166 percent to less than 7 percent, and keeping currency prices stable. See Jim Phipps &
Christopher H. Johnson, Foreign Law in Review: 2001, 36 INTâ€™L LAW. 901, 939 (2002). 37 See Trade and Development Act of 2000, 106 P.L. 200, 114 Stat. 251 (2000).
Comoros is dependant on the exports of basic commodities such as spices, and official
development assistance. 38 In 1996, Comoros accepted article VIII of the IMFâ€™s Articles of Agreement
which requires countries to refrain from imposing restrictions on the making of payments and transfers for current international transactions, engaging in discriminatory
currency arrangements, or multiple currency practices without the approval of the
IMF. Comoros agreed to pursue sound economic policy. Comoros also took trade
reforms as part of the IMF-supported programs such as Structural Adjustment Facility.
For example, in 1994, Comoros received $1.90 million credit under Structural
Adjustment Facility to support its economic reforms. See Robert Sharer et al., Trade
Liberalization in IMF-Supported Programs 9, 30 (1998) (Comoros began Fundsupported programs with a relatively restrictive trade regime. However, there was a
marked reduction in its trade restrictiveness).
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 123
must be moderate in their demands with respect to its membership in
the trade body if it requests to join.
Somalia has also been largely overlooked in the context of the WTO. It
has undergone market-oriented policies.39 After years of conflict and chaos,
Somalia is experiencing more political stability that should help it revive
its shattered economy and rebuild the role of its manufacturing sector.
Since many of its industries would not be competitive internationally,
WTO members, when considering Somaliaâ€™s accession, must be moderate in their demands for accession.40
Yemen is another Arab country that is not a member of the WTO.
Modern laws have been enacted that are comparable to those of other
Arab countries.41 Islamic law has been codified in Yemen covering, among
other areas, trade. Among trade reforms, Yemen removed import restrictions for many products, introduced a four-band tariff structure with rates
ranging from 5-30 percent, and harmonized excise tax rates. Additionally,
Yemen opened its wheat trade and distribution of petroleum products,
and removed a price-fixing cartel in the trucking sector. Yet, Yemenâ€™s
accession to the WTO will still face many obstacles.
L. The Arab League
There have been calls by Arab countries to grant the Arab League an
observer status at the WTO. These calls so far have been received by
deaf ears. Admitting the Arab League to the WTO would strengthen the
position of Arab countries in the organization. The Vatican has been sitting as an observer since 1997 without the intention for applying for
39 See U.S. Depâ€™t. Of Com. & Library of Cong., Somalia: A Country Study (1993)
(stabilization and macroeconomic adjustment programs had been implemented during 1980s under the auspices of international credit and aid agencies. There has been
a privatization of wholesale trade and financial services). 40 Crop and livestock production, forestry, and fisheries are Sudanâ€™s main items of
exports. Id. 41 See Phipps & Johnson, supra note 36, at 953.
124 bashar h. malkawi
membership. It is preposterous to delay granting the Arab League a seat
to observe the WTO at work.
As to the boycott on Israel, precedent exists permitting an Arab country to accede to the GATT while simultaneously maintaining its boycott
on Israel. This was the case of the accession of the United Arab Republic,
a union between Egypt and Syria, to the GATT.42 Therefore, accession
of Arab countries to the WTO should not hinge on dismantling their
trade boycott on Israel.
III. The Venue of the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference: Qatar (2001)
The WTO must hold its Ministerial Conference at least once every two
years. The General Council of the WTO decides on the date and venue
of the Ministerial Conference.43 The Gulf state of Qatar, during the 1999
Seattle Ministerial Conference, voluntarily offered to host the WTO
Ministerial Conference. In 2001, the fourth WTO Ministerial Conference
was held in Doha, Qatar, that brought the WTO ever closer to Arab
countries, and was the largest international meeting in the region.44
Qatar is a small country, and it is not an active member of the WTO,
similar to Canada, Chile, Singapore, or South Africa. Despite these limitations, Qatar was found to have the required infrastructure to host the
42 The Arab boycott was justified as a reasonable measure considering the state
of war between the United Arab Republic and Israel. During the accession negotiations, some contracting parties raised concerns that the United Arabic Republic was
participating in the Arab League boycott of Israel. Members of the working party
supported the concept that such a boycott did not preclude accession, as long as it
was for political purposes and not a disguised trade protection measure. See GATT
ANALYTICAL INDEX, supra note 21, at 602-03. 43 There are many factors considered in selecting the venue of the WTO Ministerial
Conference. Those include the capacity to host the conference, proximity of the conference venue to corporate hotels such as Marriott, Sheraton, and Hyatt, and airport(s), transportation, local assistance, and security arrangements. Usually, WTO
Secretariat officials visit the prospective city to determine its infrastructureâ€™s ability to
host such a large meeting. 44 The other WTO Ministerial Conferences were, consecutively: Singapore (Dec.
9-13, 1996), Geneva (May 18-20, 1998), Seattle (Nov. 30-Dec. 3, 1999), and Cancun
(Sep. 10-14, 2003). The sixth Ministerial Conference will be held in Hong Kong (Dec.
13-18, 2005). The usual date for WTO Ministerial Conferences is the Nov. to Dec.
period. During this period in 2001, the Islamic month of Ramadan would come.
Being sensitive to Islamic values, it was decided to hold the fourth Ministerial Conference
earlier (Nov. 9-13). If WTO members did not decide so, trade negotiators would be
hungry. Trade negotiators would not provide the anticipated outcomes.
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 125
meeting.45 It is possible that Qatar was chosen for reasons other than its
infrastructure and the WTO claim of wanting to integrate Arab countries into the WTO system.
The 1999 Seattle Ministerial Conference was a blow to the efforts of
WTO members to launch the â€œMillennium Roundâ€.46 The WTO could
not sustain another failure. As such, Qatar was the proper venue to remove
the Seattle stain. In terms of geography, Qatar is far way from the antiglobalization protestors and anarchists that disrupted the Seattle Conference.47
Even if protestors decided to travel to Qatar, they were unlikely to flock
in large numbers, considering travel expenses and other logistical hurdles.48 Protestors were likely to have a low key profile in Doha. Therefore,
to outflank a Seattle reoccurrence, Doha was chosen as it is far from
demonstrations, riot police, tear gas, and downtown arrests.
The sequence of events of the September 11, 2001 tragedy in the U.S.
highlighted the difficulty of bringing Arab countries ever closer to the
WTO, which was intended by holding the fourth Ministerial Conference
in the region. After September 11, the U.S. suggested changing the venue
to Chile, after the refusal of South Africa to host the Conference. If WTO
members were sincerely interested in bringing Arab countries within the
framework of the WTO, they could have insisted on maintaining Qatar
as the designated venue. Luckily enough, the momentum was sustained,
and Qatar remained the venue.
Over the course of several WTO Ministerial Conferences, delegations
of some Arab countries to the Conferences were small in number. Generally,
Arab delegations consisted of a trade minister and two senior trade officials.
This reflects the fact that Arab countries do not have enough financial
resources to send full-fledged delegations.49 The small numbers of Arab
45 See Qatari Trade Minister Stresses Need for Proceeding with WTO Gathering,
d425 WTO Rep. (BNA) (Sept. 26, 2001) (Qatar was prepared to make available 4,440
rooms for attending officials, some in terms of luxury villas and cruise ships. The proposed venue was the Sheraton Doha Conference and the International Exhibition Center). 46 There are many reasons for the failure of the Seattle meeting. At this point,
external factors will be counted: Violent protests against the WTO resulted in 600
arrests, $3 million in property damages, and between $12 million and $22 million in
lost business for Seattle merchants. Id. Protestors delayed and disrupted several Seattle
meetings. 47 The largest jam ever in Qatar in which police interfered was the McDonaldBurger King price war. The two fast-food restaurants engaged in a price war after
Burger King opened in Qatar. 48 While, if the WTO Ministerial Conference was held in Vancouver, Canada,
protestors would have flocked in vans by thousands across the U.S. borders. 49 The WTO provides three travel tickets, for more you buy your own ticket. Other
international agencies may handle travel expenses such as WIPO or USAID.
126 bashar h. malkawi
delegations could be easily compared with hundreds of trade negotiators
representing other countries.50 Delegations consisting of small numbers
would put Arab countries at a disadvantage, especially if, due to an imbalanced calendar, several meetings were held at the same time.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are permitted to attend WTO
Ministerial Conferences.51 NGOs are subject to an accreditation process
by specifying how their activities are linked to the work of the WTO and
sources of finance.52 However, these requirements are also a potential
drawback for NGOs from Arab countries.53
Over the course of the five WTO Ministerial Conferences held so far,
few Arab business associations and NGOs have participated. Moreover,
they were limited in representation to one or two persons. For example,
in the third Ministerial Conference held in Seattle in 1999, among approximately 739 associations and NGOs that took part, only three were from
Arab countries.54 The number of Arab associations increased dramatically
in the fourth Ministerial Conference held in Doha in 2001.55 The lack
50 For GATT Brussels Ministerial Meeting in 1990, the U.S. sent an army of 600
personnel and Japan 300. Perhaps out of security reasons, U.S. trade delegation to
the Doha Ministerial Conference had a low turnout of less than 100. 51 NGOsâ€™ attendance is limited to plenary sessions but not other meetings. 52 See Non-Governmental Organizations, Facilities Provided During the WTO
Ministerial Conference in Singapore, Aug. 26, 1996, PRESS/TE 012. An obvious
reason for the accreditation process is to prevent NGOs with â€œhidden agendaâ€ from
participating. Coincidentally, the title of the document refers to trade and environment. One assumes that some environmental NGOs have hidden agenda. 53 Some Arab NGOs might be interested in the work of the WTO although their
activities are not linked to the work of the WTO. 54 Two were from Egypt (Group of Fifteen-Federation of Chambers of Commerce,
Industry and Services and the Central Agricultural Co-op Union) and one from Sudan
(Sudanese Business Men and Employers Federation). 55 Out of approximately 365 associations and NGOs participating in the Conference,12
Arab associations participated: six were from Jordan (Arab Knowledge Management
Society, Arab Society for Certified Accountants, Arab Society for Intellectual Property,
Licensing Executives Society-Arab Countries, National Society for Consumer Protection,
PhRMA East/Africa Committee), one from Lebanon (Arab NGO Network for Development), three from Egypt (Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services, Group of
Fifteen-Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Services, National Association for Human Rights and Development), one from Syria (International Confederation
of Arab Trade Unions), and one from Saudi Arabia (Women and Children International).
The number of Arab associations and NGOs in the fifth Ministerial Conference in
Cancun in 2003 dropped back to 8 out of 1002: three from Egypt (Afro-Asian Peopleâ€™s
Solidarity Organization, Center for Trade Union and Workers Services, Federation
of Egyptian Industries), two from Jordan (Arab Knowledge Management Society,
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America-Jordan), one from Lebanon
(Arab NGO Network for Development), one from Iran (Confederation of Iranian
Industry), and one from Tunisia (Union Tunisienne de lâ€™Agriculture et de la PÃªche).
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 127
of expansive Arab associations and NGOs participating in WTO Ministerial
Conferences can be attributed to a lack of interest or understanding of the
WTO mechanics or, more importantly, due to lack of financial resources.
Inter-governmental organizations also participate in WTO Ministerial
Conferences. For example, in the Doha Ministerial Conference of 2001,
sixty-two inter-governmental organizations were permitted to participate.
One noticeable group that was missing from participation in WTO
Ministerial Conferences was the League of Arab States, one of the oldest regional organizations of states in the world. Despite various attempts
by the League to obtain an observer seat at WTO Ministerial Conferences
as well as at various meetings, the Leagueâ€™s efforts have thus far been
fruitless.56 Several WTO members have objected to such requests on the
pretext that the League of Arab States promotion of boycott of Israel is
contrary to WTO rules. Clearly, the objections of these members are
politically motivated rather than legally justified. WTO rules provide the
means for integrating the functions of international, regional, and countryspecific inter-governmental organizations, including the IMF, World Bank,
and the OECD.57 In return for blocking the League of Arab Statesâ€™ application for observership, Arab countries such as Egypt blocked applications of other inter-governmental organizations.58 For example, the U.N
Commissioner for Human Rights was not granted observer status in the
Council for Trade in Services.
At the end of the Ministerial Conference in Qatar, members marked
the launch of new round of multilateral trade negotiations. Aside from
being considered â€œdeveloping countriesâ€, the question that arises is what
Arab countries achieved during the meeting. One of the immediate benefits,
from the perspective of Qatar, is that the new round was dubbed â€œthe
56 For instance, the League of Arab States was not permitted to participate as an
observer in the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun in 2003. Hussein Hassouna,
Ambassador of the League of Arab States to the U.S., Address and Remarks at
American University Washington College of Law (Apr. 21, 2004). On the other hand,
Qatar courteously hosted the Israel delegation in the Fourth Ministerial Conference
in Doha. Usually, the WTO issues invitations to members and other organizations
to attend its Ministerial Conferences. 57 Article V.1 of the WTO Charter states that the General Council shall make
â€œappropriate arrangementsâ€ for effective cooperation with other inter-governmental
organizations that have responsibilities related to those of the WTO. Thus, members
of the WTO recognized, though without any specific reference to any inter-governmental organization, other legal entities as part of the wider economic order. 58 See Robyn Eckersley, The Big Chill: The WTO and Multilateral Environmental Agreements,
4 GLOBAL ENVTL. POL. 24 (May 2004) (admission of observers has been dealt
with on an ad hoc basis. The continuing impasse on the observer problem can be
resolved only at the General Council level).
128 bashar h. malkawi
Doha Development Agendaâ€.59 Additionally, Qatar boosted its convention and tourism industry, even if such a boost was only temporary.60
However, there have not been any long-range economic benefits from
hosting the Conference.
The WTO Ministerial Conference in Qatar offered Arab countries the
opportunity to demand concessions from developed countries. Arab countries missed that opportunity because of self-interest in gaining global prestige by holding the Ministerial Conference in the region and fostering
closer relationships with the U.S. Arab countries did not solidify their
positions in the WTO Ministerial Conference in Qatar. In the WTO
Ministerial Conference in Qatar, coalitions from other developing countries managed to derive concessions from developed countries.61 For example, the alliance between India, Argentina, Mexico, and Israel, among
other countries, succeeded in including anti-dumping and countervailing
rules in the Doha Round to clarify and improve WTO agreements on
these matters. African countries succeeded in obtaining a waiver from
WTO rules for the Conotu Agreement, which provides former colonies
and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) favorable access to
the EC market. Moreover, African countries reached a deal with developed countries on intellectual property and public health aimed at placating concerns about the impact of patent protection on the availability
of essential medicines in African countries.
An Arab alliance should be formed so that they can form peer pressure to demand concessions from developed countries in WTO Ministerial
Conferences and meetings. The alliance should also afford the help
requested by its constituent members. The Arab alliance is needed, considering that Arab countries are now faced with the daunting task of
understanding complex and extensive trade negotiations in which they
will participate over the next several years, while still digesting the raw
deals of the Uruguay Round.
59 The â€œDoha Development Agendaâ€ will enter the history of trade rounds along
with the Tokyo Round and the Uruguay Round. It is of notice that the Doha
Ministerial Declaration of 2001 uses the term â€œwork programâ€ instead of the politically sensitive term â€œtrade roundâ€. For example, the term â€œwork programâ€ was used
seventeen times while â€œroundâ€ was referred to only one time in the context of the
Uruguay Round. See Doha Ministerial Declaration, Nov. 14, 2001, WTO Doc. No.
WT/MIN(01)/DEC/1. 60 Qatar may have built facilities such as rooms that cost million of dollars to be
used only for one time. 61 See Inaamul Haque, Reflections on the WTO Doha Ministerial: Doha Development Agenda,
17 AM. U. INTâ€™L L. REV. 1097 (2002).
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 129
IV. Arab Countriesâ€™ Participation/Non-Participation in the WTO Dispute
Arab countries are frequent users of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism. The WTO dispute settlement system has been in effect for nearly
ten years. Over the span of that period, of a total of ninety-two WTO
members who participated in dispute proceedings, no Arab country has
ever initiated a case before a panel as a complainant.62 Further, through
the end of 2004, Egypt has been the only Arab country that has been a
respondent in a case.63 This state of affairs may indicate that Arab countries are not rule breakers. Another interpretation is that Arab countries
choose to settle their disputes with other WTO countries through consultations. Reasons for this include high fees charged by international law
firms for representation in the litigation, or fear of spillover effects on
Lack of participation in WTO dispute settlement proceedings may also
be attributed to the minuscule level of the Arab countriesâ€™ contribution
to world trade, contrasted with $1 billion a day of trade between the
U.S. and EC.64 However, this is by no means a completely valid reason
to not participate in WTO dispute settlement proceedings. Argentina, for
example, which accounts for only 0.6 percent of world trade, is one of
the most challenged nations before the WTO, after the U.S. and the EC.
Argentina has also filed nine complaints in the WTO. Additionally, India
is an active participant in the WTO dispute settlement cases despite the
fact that its share of world trade is under 0.8 percent.
Another reason that Arab countries are not frequent users of the WTO
dispute settlement system is a lack of expertise and knowledge of com62 See Dispute Settlement Body, Overview of State of Play of WTO Disputes, Nov.
18, 2002, WTO Doc. No. WT/DSB/W/209/Add.1. 63 See Egypt-Definitive Anti-Dumping Measures on Steel Rebar from Turkey, Aug.
8, 2002, WTO Doc. No. WT/DS211/R. In the Steel Rebar case, in which Egypt
presented an excellent argument, its counsel was Van Beal and Bellis of Brussels,
Belgium. See Internet Chat with E.U. Commissioner Pascal Lamy and Egyptian Trade
Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali, New WTO Round: Talking Trade-Whatâ€™s Going
on?, at <http://europa.eu.int/comm/chat/lamy9/index_en.htm> (Last visited May
30, 2005). 64 See Grary G. Yerkey, U.S. Trade Policy Overlooks Middle East Region, Could
Hurt War on Terrorism, PPI Study Says, 20 Intâ€™l Trade Rep. (BNA) 323 (Feb. 13,
2003) (the Muslim world has experienced a 75% drop in its share of world export
since 1980. As of 2001, the entire Muslim world received only $13.6 billion in FDI,
barely more than Sweden all by itself).
130 bashar h. malkawi
plicated WTO law, with some complaints crossing between several WTO
agreements. Bringing a case before a WTO panel is an extensive process
that requires preparing commercial data, studies, econometric modeling,
and substantial documentation. However, with the passing of time and
the growing knowledge of the WTO law, one might expect more use of
the WTO dispute settlement system.
Litigating a WTO case, which may take years, is very costly. For example, Brazil, in its 2004 case against U.S. upland cotton subsidies, incurred
an estimated $2 million in legal fees at the WTO panel level alone.65
Unless some Arab countries share the legal and financial burdens of proceedings at the WTO, it might be very difficult for a single Arab country to initiate a case alone. Therefore, spreading the cost among Arab
countries would make the process more affordable for Arab countries to
In addition, power relations may play role in limiting Arab countriesâ€™
participation in trade disputes. For example, Egypt may have been in a
Scylla and Charybdis position when it decided to settle its dispute with
the EC out of court.66 If Egypt supported the U.S. in the sensitive GMO
case, it would have upset its relations with the EC. By the same token,
if Egypt did not support the U.S., it would have lead to a souring in
trade relations between the U.S. and Egypt. Ultimately, Egypt chose to
settle the dispute with the EC without litigation. Perhaps, without pressure, Egypt may have pressed ahead with the dispute against the EC.
Arab traditions and history may outweigh all other reasons for the limited participation by Arab countries in WTO dispute settlement cases.
International litigation is not a preferred choice for Arab countries. Negotiations and compromises are the traditional path. It is a question of style.
One hopes that, in the future, the process may become more confrontational, in order for Arab countries to press their interests in trade
disputes without compromising, which otherwise would occur in negotiations. Through litigation Arab countries would send a signal to other
65 On appeal, Brazil is likely to incur more costs. For more on the case see United
Statesâ€”Subsidies on Upland Cotton, May 23, 2003, WTO Doc. No. WT/DS267/15. 66 See Grary G. Yerkey and Christopher S. Rugaber, U.S. and Egypt Beginning
to See â€œEye-to-Eyeâ€ on Need for FTA but No Talks Scheduled Yet, 20 Intâ€™l. Trade
Rep. 1145 ( July 3, 2003) (quoting Boutros-Gali, Egyptâ€™s [former] foreign trade minister, saying that Egypt wants to begin the [US FTA] negotiations â€œtomorrowâ€.
However, the U.S. has been cold toward negotiating an FTA with Egypt. Some hint
that this so because Egypt withdrew its support of the U.S. in the Genetically Modified
Organism case against the EC).
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 131
WTO members that negotiation is one option for resolving a trade dispute, but not the only option. Arab countries should employ negotiation
and litigation at the same time because litigation plays an important role
in informing negotiations.
There are some provisions in the Dispute Settlement Understanding
of the WTO that give special treatment for developing and least-developed countries.67 An important step has been taken to assist developing
countries in WTO disputes settlement through the establishment of the
Advisory Center on WTO Law.68 Four Arab countries are members of
the Advisory Center.69 The Advisory Center resembles a law office that
specializes in WTO law. Despite several limitations on the functions of
the Advisory Center, Arab countries should consider becoming involved
in the Center until they have their own in-house counsels and expertise
in international trade law.
67 For example, according to article 27.2 of the DSU, the WTO Secretariat provides assistance to developing countries through the legal advice of experts in dispute
settlement. However, legal assistance from the WTO Secretariat is qualified â€œin a
manner ensuring the continued impartiality of the Secretariatâ€. In other words, legal
assistance through the WTO Secretariat is not full but limited to the extent that the
Secretariatâ€™s neutrality is not compromised. 68 The Advisory Center is independent from the WTO, established as a foundation under Swiss law. The Advisory Center is open to all WTO members, but only
developing countries and economies in transition can use its services. The Advisory
Center sources of income are: user charges, revenues from an endowment fund, and
traditional donor contributions. The Advisory Center organizes seminars on WTO
jurisprudence, offers legal advice on WTO law, provides support in WTO proceedings, and permits internships for officials dealing with WTO legal issues. One of the
criticisms directed toward the Advisory Center is that there may be real duplication
between its work and the work of the WTO Technical Cooperation Division. Other
criticisms are the limited number of professionals, and the estimated hours per case
(700 hours for a simple case). Even more, the Advisory Center executive director will
have the power to decide whether a case brought to the Center by a developing
country has legal merit or not. See Kim Van der Borght, The Advisory Center on WTO
Law: Advancing Fairness and Equality, 2 J. INTâ€™L ECON. L. 723, 724-727 (1999). 69 Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and Oman are members of the Advisory Center. Egypt
and Tunisia are original members of the Advisory Center, which signed the agreement establishing the Center, while Jordan was the first country to accede to the
agreement, followed by Oman. Late Said El-Naggar of Egypt, former Appellate Body
member, held a seat in the management board for two years term starting 2001. See
<http://www.acwl.ch/> (Last visited May 4, 2005).
132 bashar h. malkawi
V. The Impact of the International Trading System on Arab Countries
The WTO created a new reality, and Arab countries cannot afford not
to join.70 Arab countries cannot get engaged in the multilateral trading
system without being part of the WTO. With the world becoming more
and more economically integrated, Arab countries will have the chance
to be involved, and their interests represented appropriately.71 In an era
of internationalizing the economy, any Arab country which does not join
would be isolated.
Adhering to the rules of the WTO may enhance global confidence in
the Arab countries, and thus is likely to increase foreign direct investment.72 As for individual Arabic citizens, one can imagine how consumersâ€™
lives would be if goods not made in their home countries became available at their fingertips. The loss of sovereignty is not specific to Arab
countries, but for all countries joining the WTO.73 Membership in the
70 The following are the Arab countries that joined the WTO: Bahrain ( Jan. 1,
1995), Djibouti (May 31, 1995), Oman (Nov. 9, 2000), Qatar ( Jan. 13, 1996), United
Arab Emirates (Apr. 10, 1996), and Jordan (Apr. 11, 2000). In addition there are
seven other Arab countries in the process of joining: Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya,
Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. 71 Developing countries had noticeable impacts on developed countries in the WTO.
For example, Guatemala and Ecuador, not satisfied with the settlement of the banana
dispute, blocked the proposal of the EC to obtain a waiver for the Fiji Convention
that gives preferential treatment for African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries.
Developing countries played an important role in the debate over the selection of the
Director General for the WTO to replace Renato Ruggeiro in 1999. Additionally,
developing countries aired their concerns toward the green room negotiations module in the Seattle Ministerial meeting. See Strengthening Relations with Arab and
Islamic Countries through International Law: E-Commerce, WTO Dispute Settlement
Mechanism, and Foreign Investment 182-183 (The International Bureau of the
Permanent Court of Arbitration ed., 2002). 72 Personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of privately-owned property are the cornerstones of economic freedom. In a study conducted on economic freedom in the world, Jordan ranked 36 in 2002, Bahrain ranked
31, Morocco ranked 83, and Egypt ranked 74. See James Gwartney & Robert Lawson,
Economics Freedom of the World: 2004 Annual Report 53, 81, 107, 120 (2004). 73 The U.S. and other developed countries have much more to worry about in terms
of sovereignty since they have many great issues at stake. For more on sovereignty
see Jenik Radon, Sovereignty: A Political Emotion, Not a Concept, 40 STAN. J. INTâ€™L L.
195, 203, 208 (2004) (despite the long history of the sovereignty concept, it has always
been a term in search of a definition. The notion of sovereignty has always been
problematic and ephemeral. The U.S. approach toward sovereignty is grounded on the
legacy of American exceptionalism. For the U.S., joining the WTO met with opposition
and suspicion. Joining the WTO amounted to the surrender of U.S. sovereignty. On
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 133
WTO would ensure Arab countries a fair forum for settling their potential
trade disputes with other members who may wield more trading power.
Reviewing some of the WTO cases would highlight this fact.74 In addition, WTO agreements have safety valves, such as anti-dumping measures, that can be used provisionally to counter imports.
The multilateral trading system will have profound effects on the Arab
countries collectively. For those countries that joined the WTO, this means
that they will have to abide by its rules. For those that are outside of
the WTO, they will have to undertake regulatory reforms. Benefits are
likely to materialize once the Arab countries enact a broad package of
laws and regulations. This does not mean that some Arab industries are
not likely to be negatively affected. While it is recognized that adjustment
to trade liberalization will be neither automatic nor painless, any negative impact on Arab import-competing industries may be compensated
by exportable industries and governments by ensuring better access to
capital, and establishing training programs to develop the skills of those
dislocated. Measuring the impact of WTO accession on Arab countries
in different sectors, such as financial services, intellectual property rights,
and customs laws, just to mention few, requires extensive studies and
analyses that are beyond the limits of this section.75 Therefore, this section will analyze the implications of the WTO on Arab countries in
Until the Uruguay Round, agriculture was under softer disciplines. The
WTO Agreement on Agriculture contains new regulations in this sector.
The WTO Agreement on Agriculture covers three pillars: market access,
export subsidies, and domestic support.76
the other hand, for small countries, accession to regional and global bodies gives them
more sovereignty). Under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, any member of
Congress can offer a joint resolution every five years to have the U.S. withdraw from
the WTO. This is an example of U.S. concern over ceding its sovereignty by joining the WTO. 74 See Report of the Appellate Body on United States-Import Prohibition of Certain
Shrimp and Shrimp Products, Oct. 12, 1996, WTO Doc. No. WT/DS58/AB/R. 75 For some sectoral studies on the WTO and Arab countries see Opening Doors
to the World: A New Trade Agenda for the Middle East (Raed Safadi ed., 1998). 76 Restrictions on market access of agriculture were in the form of tariffs and nontariff barriers. WTO members agreed to tariffy non-tariff barriers in binding recorded
schedules, with tariffs resulting from this process to be reduced by an average 36 per
134 bashar h. malkawi
Arab countriesâ€™ agriculture sectors are in primitive stages. Arab countries are facing an ever increasing challenge to acquire adequate food to
feed their populations. Although some parts of the region have been historically exporters of agricultural products, now they are, to a large extent,
dependent on staple food imports.77 Many Arab countries post a trade
deficit in farm products.
There are many reasons for the decline of agriculture in Arab countries. Agriculture policy in Arab countries, which is different from developed countries, plays a role in this state of affairs.78 Arab agriculture
cent in case of developed countries and 24 percent for developing countries, with
minimum reductions for each tariff line required. This process is known as the Uruguay
Round formula. Regarding export subsidy, developed countries committed to reduction
at a level of 36 percent below the 1986-1990 base level, and the quantity of subsidized
exports by 21 percent over the same period. In the case of developing countries, the
reductions are two-thirds of those of developed countries. The implementation period
is six years for developed countries, starting Jan. 1 1995, and ten years for developing countries regarding direct export subsidy. Some WTO members calculated very
high levels of equivalent tariffs in replacement of non-tariff barriers. To alleviate such
a problem, members provided three approaches: current market access, minimum
access quotas where current access is less than 3 percent of domestic consumption,
and special treatment for some products such as rice. For more on the WTO Agriculture
Agreement see Melaku Geboye Desta, Food Security and International Trade Law: An
Appraisal of the World Trade Organization, 35.3 J. World Trade 450-452 (2001). 77 See Roni N. Halabi, Stability in the Middle East through Economic Development: An
Analysis of the Peace Process, Increased Agricultural Trade, Joint Ventures, and Free Trade Agreements,
2 DRAKE J. AGRIC. L. 275, 284 (1997) (twenty Arab countries purchased $27.3
billion worth of agricultural products in 1993). 78 For example, Arab countries tax farmers so that urban populations can purchase farm products at lower prices. In order to compensate for taxing farmers, Arab
countries subsidize inputs, such as irrigation, thus providing artificially low-cost water.
However, with taking on economic reforms under the aegis of international agencies,
subsidizing inputs is no longer a viable approach. Moreover, Arab countries lack foreign exchange to subsidize agriculture. On the other hand, developed countries, such
as the U.S. and EC, tax urban populations to ensure income support for farmers.
Rather than subsidizing inputs, developed countries subsidize agriculture output.
Therefore, domestic Arab farm products priced higher than imported ones. Developed
countriesâ€™ agricultural exporters â€œdumpâ€ their surplus productions in Arab countriesâ€™
markets, eroding what is remaining of the agriculture sector in these Arab countries.
Water scarcity in the region is another reason for the decline in agriculture. However,
although it is valid, this is not all true. A further reason for insufficient grain harvest
could be due to giving more emphasis on value-added crops such as fruits and vegetables. One could argue that this works for Arab countriesâ€™ comparative advantage,
since they have large pools of labor and little arable land. For more on the U.S.
agricultural policy see J.W. Looney et al., Agriculutral Law: A Lawyerâ€™s Guide to
Representing Farm Clients 5-10, 191-205 (1990) (many of the U.S. support programs
date back to the farm financial crises of the 1930s and 1980s. Certain reasons may
provide an explanation for the divergent treatment of agriculture in the U.S. First,
farming is viewed as a unique way of life dependant on natural forces which are
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 135
sectors are relatively subsidy-free while developed countries provide massive agricultural subsidies, thus causing lower prices, and harming farmers in Arab countries. Arab countries are experiencing a lack of young
farmers. Many farming households derive most of their income from nonagricultural activities.79 Arab agricultural technology, such as mechanization and large farm operations, is also not on the same level as that of
their foreign counterparts, which results in high output costs and low
international competitiveness. Additionally, exports of agricultural and
fishery products from Arab countries face a myriad of safety and environmental regulations in foreign markets. For example, Oman was allowed
to export wild shrimp to the U.S. in 2005, only after the State Department
certified that its fishing operations do not threaten endangered sea turtles because Oman harvests shrimp using manual rather than mechanical means to retrieve nets.80 Other regulatory measures imposed by the
U.S. include mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat and meat
products. Safety and environmental regulations make it burdensome for
agricultural and fishery products from Arab countries to penetrate foreign markets.
The measurement of the potential impact of liberalization in agricultural trade on Arab countries requires one to take into account various
scenarios covering matters such as preferential market access, prices of
food products, farm spending, bioengineered foods, safeguard measures,
agricultural export credits, and food aid. Many Arab countries enjoy prefbeyond the farmerâ€™s control. Farmers are also viewed as a stabilizing element in society because of their vital role in food and fiber production. Farmland is a major
source of aesthetically and psychologically pleasing open space and locale for many
non-farm recreational activities. Farmers are a distinct minority in the U.S. They constitute about 2 percent of the total population. Farmers receive specialized legal treatment as an attempt to protect them from the generally urban orientation of law and
government. Lastly, their lack of participation beyond the production stage of agriculture is a contributing factor to their inability to attain adequate income). 79 See Trade Policy And Economic Integration in the Middle East and North
Africa: Economic Boundaries in Flux 186, 202 (Hassan Hakimian & Jeffrey B. Nugent
eds., 2004). 80 Under U.S. law, wild shrimp imports are barred if harvested in ways harmful
to endangered sea turtles. However, the import bar is inapplicable if the State
Department certifies that the harvesting nation has taken steps to reduce the incidental taking of turtles in shrimp trawling operations, such as the use of sea turtle
excluder devices, or has a fishing environment that poses no threat to sea turtles,
such as fishing in cold water regions not frequented by sea turtles. The shipment of
shrimp must be accompanied by the State Department form DS-2031 signed by the
exporter, importer, and government official from the harvesting nation. See
Appropriations Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 101-162, Â§ 609, 103 Stat. 988 (1989).
136 bashar h. malkawi
erential access to the EC market as a result of successive trade deals.81
The erosion of such preferences is a matter of time, in part because of
a willingness among nonrecipient countries to challenge such arrangements through the GATT/WTO dispute settlement.82 Moreover, existing
preferences could be undermined by tariff reduction commitments in the
Doha negotiations on agriculture. Therefore, Arab countries must press
members of the WTO to retain preference margins, delay the erosion of
preferences resulting from reductions in tariffs, and make compensation
payments to beneficiary Arab countries.
As a result of further liberalization in agriculture, it is expected that
the price tag of imported food products will increase. Arab net foodimporting countries would likely to face some difficulties.83 Therefore, in
WTO trade negotiations, one could anticipate that some Arab countries
would be in a defensive position or low-profile proponents of agricultural
trade liberalization. Any reduction in subsidies by developed countries for
their agriculture exporters would translate into a higher food import bill
for Arab countries.
Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have undertaken programs to
become self-sufficient in agriculture. To achieve this goal, Arab countries
81 See Jacqueline Klosek, The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, 8 INTâ€™L LEGAL PERSP.
173 (1996) (The EC provides duty-free access to 46,000 tons per marketing year of
olive oil imported from Tunisia). While market access preferences may benefit particular Arab suppliers at certain times, they generally offer limited additional real market access, and may not promote the long-term economic development of beneficiary
Arab countries. 82 The EC struck bilateral agreements with certain Mediterranean countries such
as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The U.S. charged the
EC with making unfair use of Article XXIV of GATT by granting most-favorednation treatment (MFN) to Mediterranean countries which are not members of the
EC. In 1985, an arbitration panel of GATT ruled that the EC should change its
tariff structure with certain Mediterranean producers of lemons and oranges to lessen
the adverse effects these tariffs had on U.S. exports of these fruits to the EC. See
Report of the Panel on European Community-Tariff Treatment on Imports of Citrus
Products from Certain Countries in the Mediterranean Region, Feb. 7, 1985, GATT
Doc. No. L/5776 (unpublished GATT panel report). 83 The WTO Agreement on Agriculture recognizes the negative effects of agricultural liberalization. For this reason, WTO members adopted the Ministerial Decision
on Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reforming Program on
Least-developed and Net Food-Importing Developing Countries. Statistics show that
food prices rose sharply after entry into force of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.
Since then prices have been on the decline. For more on discussion the Ministerial
Decision and the effects on food security see Desta, supra note 76, at 465-467. The
list of net food-importing countries includes Djibouti, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan,
Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. See WTO List of Net Food-Importing Developing
Countries, Mar. 26, 2002, WTO Doc. No. G/AG/5/Rev.5.
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 137
may want to increase farm spending, which has little impact on trade
and thus does not run afoul of WTO rules. For example, Arab countries
could establish support programs that include measures such as agricultural research, restructuring aid, disease control, and regional assistance.
These support programs could also include forms of direct payments to
farmers as long as these payments are not linked to the type or amount
of crops being grown.
Trade in genetically modified or bioengineered foods involves complex
factors. These factors include lack of scientific certainty on the possible
impact of agriculture biotechnology on human or animal health and the
environment, involvement of huge economic interests in the biotech food
trade, and the links that biotech food has to ethical and religious concerns and biodiversity preservation. Arab countries, such as Sudan, have
imposed import bans or tight restrictions on genetically modified organisms (â€œGMOsâ€) products. These Arab countries fear the contamination
of local crops by GMO strains which could affect their ability to export
agricultural products to the EC, where there are strict controls on bioengineered foods. Arab countries may need to approve biotechnology in
order to boost food security. Bioengineered crops provide protection against
pests, or tolerance to chemicals. For example, in 2004, Algeria and Tunisia
experienced a slowdown in economic growth due in part to a locust infestation that curbed agricultural output. Approval of bioengineered crops
could be accompanied by adequate labeling laws such as have been put
in place in Saudi Arabia. As a safety measure, the areas of GMOs crops
under cultivation could be separated from other areas of conventional
crops. In addition, as a safety measure, GMOs could pass through safety
and risk assessments before entering Arab countries.
Accession into the WTO would force the opening up of the domestic
agricultural commodity markets. To ease the burden of liberalization,
Arab countries can use the special safeguard mechanism included in the
WTO Agreement in Agriculture to shield local farmers from surging agricultural products such as olive. Additionally, in WTO trade negotiations,
Arab net food-importing countries could be proponents of special and
differential treatment in agricultural export credits, offered through export
credit agencies of developed countries, by arguing for longer maximum
repayment terms, minimum annual repayment of principal and interest,
favorable interest rates, and premium terms for food imports.
Some Arab countries, such as Jordan and Sudan, currently are recipients of food aid. As such, these Arab countries could argue for continuing food aid in the form of in-kind donations and cash payments when
138 bashar h. malkawi
negotiating new WTO rules regarding the use of food aid. Any agricultural trade reforms should not lead to a reduction in food aid delivered
to Arab countries. Arab countries should resist any proposals that would
limit food aid given in grants rather than credits, and food aid that takes
the form of cash donations rather than in-kind food donations. Cash
donations may take a longer time to reach targeted groups compared
with in-kind donations. Moreover, Arab countries could argue that food
aid should not be restricted only to defined emergencies and humanitarian crises.
B. State-Owned Enterprises
Arab countries face the dilemma of the public/private sector dichotomy.
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are perceived as a drag on the economy
and the budget. Some believe in smaller government by reducing the
number of civil servants. It is also perceived that the future of Arab countriesâ€™ economies depends upon reform of SOEs. Usually, the public sector opposes trade liberalization, and the private sector backs it. When
SOEs were set up in 1960s, they were arms of the state, and they generated 40 percent of the GDP.84 These SOEs also account for a large
share of urban employment.85
The arguments then proceed along the following lines: These SOEs
suffer from an inability to reduce overmanned offices coupled with bloated
84 See Doing Business With Egypt 11, 17-25 (Marat Terterov ed. 2001). 85 Public enterprises in Jordan employ a large number of employees. See Yitzhak
Reiter, The Palestinian-Transjordanian Rift: Economic Might and Political Power in Jordan, 58
The Middle East Journal 72, 77 (2004) (the top 500 private-owned enterprises have
JD5,814 million worth of assets with total employment of 44,839). See also David
Butter, The Public-Sector Problem in Syria, 37:22 MEED Middle E. Econ. Dig. 2
( June 4, 1993) (Syria is saddled with a huge public sector. The public sector employs
631,000 people, excluding the armed forces. This number accounts for 31 percent of
the total labor force. Public sector employees and all their dependants constitute 6
million people, out of Syriaâ€™s total population of 13.5 million). SOEs play a major
role in other Arab countries. For example, the public sector in Egypt comprises some
300 SOEs and employs 550,000 in the industrial sector alone. Libya intends to privatize roughly 360 SOEs. In Algeria, some 80 percent of industrial production remains
in the public sector. See Public Companies Open Further to Private Participation,
36:19 MEED Middle E. Econ. Dig. 20 (May 15, 1992). See Doing Business With
Saudi Arabia 5, 21 (Anthony Shoult ed., 2d ed., 2002) (the Saudi economy is currently in a state of transition as a consequence of the need to move from a focus on
public to private sector activity. Annual government spending represents one-third of
Saudi GDP. For example, in 1994, income payments to public sector employees
accounted for around 50 percent of total government spending).
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 139
payrolls. In these enterprises, political skills are far more important than
educational or managerial skills. The dilemma of the public/private sector dichotomy is further complicated if the public sector in Arab countries has an ethnic majority, while the private sector has a different ethnic
structure. SOEs maintain advantages in obtaining government subsidies,
land rights, loans from state banks, and legalized monopolies in sectors
such as aviation and power. To put it bluntly, the private sector may not
enjoy a level playing field.
The balance between the public/private sectors also means that it takes
a longer time for reform to attain a socio-political balance. Taking into
account the abilities of the private sector and of all the SOEs, the reality is that few may become conglomerates in a nasty international market that recognizes only one thing: being lean and mean. The goal should
not be to squeeze one sector over the other. Rather, there must be a
potentially long-term partnership on a broad range of activities between
private enterprises and SOEs based on communication through workshops, cooperation, shared accountability, and mutual benefit.86 In other
words, a national economy must be a private/public sector-led economy.
Moreover, creating a few large SOEs may lead to some Arab multinationals that would be globally competitive and have reduced inefficiencies.
SOEs could become an issue for some Arab countries in the WTO.
If SOEs are also trading enterprises, WTO members would be concerned
about their operation, government involvement in their operation, and
whether they operate with commercial considerations. For example, Saudi
Arabiaâ€™s state trading enterprise for wheat could be become an issue
regarding the role of government in its operations.
The ability of Arab countries to compete in international trade depends
on productivity, investment in human and physical capital, and research
and development. Several indicators suggest a decline in the competitiveness of Arab countries. Intra-industry trade between 1985 and 1997
had been relatively slow, and shows little change when compared with
Brazil, Taiwan, and Malaysia.87 Many firms in Arab countries are dominated by individuals, compete based on price alone, and lack managerial and technological resources. Some domestic industries are mostly
86 Long-term partnership may include outsourcing of non-essential functions to private sector companies so as to allow SOEs to focus on their essential functions. For
example, notary services may be outsourced to private companies. 87 See Globalization and Firm Competitiveness in the Middle East and North
African Region 191-195 (Samiha Fawzy ed. 2002).
140 bashar h. malkawi
composed of family-owned small- and medium-sized enterprises.88 They
are concentrated in traditional labor-intensive industries such as textiles
and apparel, wood products, and non-metallic mineral products. There
are no available data on overall expenditures in research and development, or the number of patents awarded in Arab countries and those of
Arab countries should focus their efforts on developing high-tech industries. Arab countries should also boost their support for research and
development, and improve their engineering and science education.
Competition will lead to increases in efficiency and creativity, which will
force domestic industries to adapt with the new climate.89
C. International Trade in Oil
Oil is the largest primary commodity traded internationally.90 Some Arab
countries are top suppliers of oil. They have a comparative cost advantage since oil in these countries is cheap to pump. Therefore, Arab oilproducing countries that are not yet members of the WTO, such as
Algeria, Iraq, Libya, and Saudi Arabia, may have concerns over subjecting oil to market forces.
Since the GATT came into existence in 1947, there has been an informal understanding among contracting parties not to subject oil and natural gas to multilateral tariff concessions negotiations. However, it is a
misconception to claim that all aspects of energy trade, whether oil or
natural gas, are not covered or excluded by the WTO agreements. Over
the years, developed and developing countries have increased the number of goods governed by the disciplines of multilateral trading systems.91
As a matter of fact, Kuwait associated itself with a 1987 GATT case that
was concerned with the oil trade.92 If oil trade is not governed by GATT,
88 For example, in Jordan 93 percent of establishments are small and mediumsized enterprises. Id. 89 Through mergers, companies could be able to compete, invest in their production systems, and strengthen their financial positions. 90 Fuel exports in 2002 stood at $615 billion, accounting for 9.8 percent of world
merchandise trade. See WTO Secretariat, International Trade Statistics for 2003 103,
114 (2003). 91 In its accession to the WTO in 2001, China committed to allocate tariff-rate
quotas for crude oil. China agreed to allow in prescribed amounts of oil at lower
tariff levels. Oil imports above the quota levels are subject to higher tariffs. 92 The Superfund case was brought by EC, Canada, and Mexico. A 1987 GATT
panel found that tariffs mandated by the U.S. Comprehensive Environmental Response,
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 141
then the GATT panel would not have exercised jurisdiction in the matter. However, that case was limited to the consumer/importer side of the
oil trade. There has not yet been a case involving the producer/exporter
country side, for reasons such as setting prices or production targets.93
Additionally, oil trade is subject to domestic trade remedy laws.94 For
example, in 1999, a consortium of independent U.S. crude oil producers
alleged that companies in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, among other countries,
were dumping crude oil subsidized by the Saudi and Iraqi governments
in the U.S. market.95
One certainly can claim that oil trade is an â€œambivalentâ€ trade.96 On
the one hand, oil trade is supposedly covered by WTO agreements. On
Compensation, and Liability Act, known as Superfund legislation, was in violation of
article III.2 of GATT (the non-discriminatory article). The U.S. charged imported oil
at a rate of 11.7 percent per barrel. On the other hand, it charged domestic oil at
a rate of 8.2 percent. The case is cited briefly in Kwan kiat Sim, Rethinking the
Mandatory/discretionary Legislation Distinction in WTO Jurisprudence, 2 World Trade Rev.
33, 49-50 (2003). The other oil-related case is U.S.-Reformulated Gasoline case of
1996. However, the Reformulated Gasoline case was primarily concerned with an
environmental measure. For more on this â€œenvironmentalâ€ case see Reconciling
Envionment and Trade 163-292 (Edith Brown Weiss & John H. Jackson eds., 2001). 93 See Rossella Brevetti, DeFazio Asks for WTO Case Against OPEC Production
Cuts, 21 Intâ€™l Trade Rep. (BNA) 565 (Apr. 1, 2004) (Rep. Peter DeFazio, along with
over 30 other House members, filed a letter with President Bush asking to launch a
WTO case against OPEC. The letter alleges that OPEC supply restrictions are disguised restrictions on international trade violating article XI of GATT 1994. Moreover,
the letter states that an article XX exception allowing restrictions for the conservation of exhaustible natural resources is inapplicable since OPEC is not restricting oil
production due to conservation concerns or to preserve an exhaustible supply). If a
WTO case is filed, although it is unlikely for its political and economically-destabilizing ramifications, it would be the first WTO case on the producer/supplier side. 94 Oil trade includes here crude oil, oil derivatives, and oil country tubular goods
that are used in the oil and gas industry such as tubes and drill pipes. 95 The U.S. Department of Commerce denied the petition on the ground that
there was no sufficient support from the domestic industry to initiate an investigation
since opposition from U.S. producers exceeded support. On appeal, the CIT and
Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the Commerce
Department. See Save Domestic Oil, Inc. v. United States, 240 F. Supp. 2d 1342
(Ct. Intâ€™l Trade 2002) (stating that this was the first case the Commerce Department
had rejected a petition at the filing petition level). See also Save Domestic Oil v.
Commerce Department, 357 F.3d 1278, 1284 (C. A Fed. 2004) (the Commerce
Department does not have a standard practice applicable to all industries of disregarding the opposition of domestic importer-producers with import levels beyond a
certain percentage. There is an industry-specific analysis). One may speculate that the
Commerce Department rejected the dumping petition because imposing an anti-dumping order would lead to political backlash from oil-producing countries as well as to
an increase in the price U.S. consumers would pay at the pump. 96 See Francis N. Botchway, International Trade Regime and Energy Trade, 28 SYRA
142 bashar h. malkawi
the other hand, some oil production is managed by the Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) through supply control measures,
such as price targets or production quotas.97 There are many factors that
affect trade in oil.98 OPEC Arab countries that are members of the WTO
such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have not changed their oil
policies because of joining the WTO. Therefore, Saudi Arabia and other
oil-exporting Arab countries can argue that a precedent exists for not
requiring oil-producing countries that acceded to the WTO to change
In acceding to the WTO, Arab countries may have to bind their tariffs
on oil imports, meaning that tariffs cannot increase above a certain ceiling. Moreover, this implies that other oil-importing countries would reduce
and bind their tariffs based on reciprocity, thus giving an advantage to
Arab oil-exporting countries.99 The U.S. and other developed countries
should reduce their trade barriers to oil, such as high tariffs, discriminatory taxes on fossil fuels, carbon taxes, and subsidies for coal and nuclear
CUSE J. INTâ€™L. L. & COM. 1, 11, 12 (2001) (some of the theoretical reasons for
the apparent ambivalent attitude of contemporary international trade regimes to energy
trade include the definition of energy as good or service, which in itself is not without controversy, location of energy at the heart of government economic thinking,
and energy as a vital national asset to be left to free international trade trajectories.
Movements in international regulation of energy are more likely to come from regional
or industry-determined economic blocs. The legal basis for OPEC is article XX(h) of
GATT, which permits import or export restrictions legislated by commodity agreements. However, OPEC was not submitted for approved of the contracting parties
as required by article XX(h) of GATT). 97 See Oil: A Burning Question, The Economist, Mar. 27, 2004 at 71 (citing the
OPEC cartel and its kingpin Saudi Arabia decision to cut production by 1 million
barrel per day). 98 For an overview of trade in oil see James M. Day, Petroleum Prices, 1 AM. U.
BUS. L. BRIEF 52, 53 (2004) (discussing the petroleum industry and factors that
affect the industry, such as traders, weather reports, expectations of war, OPEC, currency value, taxes, lack of refining capacity, and refinersâ€™ profits). 99 For much of the twentieth century the U.S. maintained a tariff on oil imports
to protect its petroleum industry against lower-priced competition from abroad. See
Michael A. Toman, International Oil Security: Problems and Policies, 20 BROOKINGS
REV. 20, 21 (2002). 100 High tariffs are often maintained on processed products to keep value-added
production and employment in a certain market, while low tariffs are kept on raw
products. This is known as tariff escalation. Some oil-importing countries impose
higher tariffs on processed oil in order to keep value-added production and employment in their markets. Exporting raw products may constitute a threat to Arab oilexporting countriesâ€™ economic stability because they are natural resources with little
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 143
A sticking point in Algeriaâ€™s and Saudi Arabiaâ€™s accession to the WTO
is a dual price policy for energy products such as gas and electricity,
which the U.S. and EC claim provides an indirect subsidy to industrial
producers and give them unfair advantage over foreign competitors. For
example, prices of some fertilizers are directly linked to the price of energy.
However, Algeria and Saudi Arabia may want to argue that WTO agreements do not address or prohibit dual price energy policies. If their argument proves fruitless, they will have to agree to language in their WTO
accession that requires energy prices to be set according to commercial
considerations in terms of production costs and profits, stage increases in
gas prices for industrial users, and allow exceptions to permit current
energy policies for non-industrial users and households, which would be
based on social considerations.
Energy services have never existed as a separate negotiating chapter
with a clear classification in the General Agreement on Trade in Services
(GATS). However, developed countries could demand Arab countries open
up foreign investment in oil exploration, extraction, production, and gas
development projects. In their accession, Arab countries should resist such
demands for reasons of important national policy. Oil extraction and production can be classed as strategic. Arab countries will not have to provide equal access to U.S. firms for the exploration, exploitation and
processing of oil or natural gas found in their territories. Moreover, Arab
countries can argue that limiting market access in energy services is attributed to limits in their constitutions.101 Arab countries can carve out certain strategic energy-related activities from liberalization commitments.
VI. Arab Public Opinion and the WTO
Although globalization has no specific definition, the most used meaning
is economic globalization. Trends of Arab public opinion regarding globalization, and the WTO specifically, are mixed. In public, Arab government officials speak the jargon of economic reform and free trade. On
the other hand, the Arab civil society expresses a pessimistic attitude
toward the multilateral trading system.
101 Constitutions of several Arab countries provide a provision that natural resources
are the property of the nation. See Bahrain Const. art. 11, Kuwait Const. art. 21,
and Qatar Const. art. 29.
144 bashar h. malkawi
There are some reported incidents of an Arab anti-globalization movement, and its visible presence, the WTO. In 2002, Arab activists from
Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories met in Beirut
and established a permanent Arab network, called the Arab Forum, to
resist globalization, and, implicitly, the WTO.102 The Arab Forum spelled
out its objectives: to exchange and coordinate information among organizations of Arab civil society, to represent a unified Arab position from
an unofficial Arab perspective, and to lead protests against globalization.
Even though there might not be an effective way to determine the pattern of Arab public opinion regarding globalization and the WTO, there
is evidence leading to the conclusion that anti-WTO/anti-globalization
sentiment exists among a large portion of the Arab population. For example, the majority of the population in Jordan has less confidence in globalization than the populations of India, Mali, Argentina, and Bolivia.103
The Arab civil society is believed to have little enthusiasm for the general free trade agenda that the WTO encourages.104 It does not acknowledge the benefits the WTO offers.105 Trade liberalization is perceived as
a threat to cultural traditions.106 Arab countries should guard their sovereignty and protect domestic industry from a flood of foreign imports.
Arab activists fight against corporate greed that is destroying jobs and
wages. Arab activists recognize that globalization contributes to rising job
insecurity. Arab activists consider trade as a threat to jobs. The WTO,
as an institution, needs an overhaul to be able to address the interests of
Arab countries. Otherwise, the WTO will poison Arab public opinion on
102 See Mustafa Abdalla Abulgasem, The Arab-Mediterranean Countries between the
Conditions of the Barcelona Process and the WTO: A Comparative Study, Conference on the
Arab Countries and the World Trade Organization: Economic and Social Impact
and the Prospects for Inter-Arab Cooperation, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies,
University of Exeter, U.K. (Sep. 23-25, 2002) (on file with author). 103 See Alan M. Field, Can Trade Bridge the Gap?, The Journal of Commerce
18 ( July 21, 2003) (a study found that Jordanians ranked last among the forty-four
countries surveyed when it came to assessing the effects of globalization on their country. Sixty-four percent of Jordanians said it was bad compared with only twenty-seven
percent who said globalization was good). 104 See David R. Karasik, Securing the Peace Dividend in the Middle East: Amending GATT
Article XXIV to Allow Sectoral Preferences in Free Trade Areas, 18 MICH. J. INTâ€™L L. 527,
545 (1997). 105 Id. 106 Prince Bandar Bin Salman Bin Mohammad Al-Saud remarked that each country has its own experience, and the way it deals with foreign investment, e-commerce,
and WTO corresponds with its system, culture, and belief. See The International
Bureau of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, supra note 71, at 4.
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 145
globalization and free trade, and this is likely to provoke a backlash against
more open economies.
The WTO, as imperfect as it is now, is a better alternative to bilateral trade agreements signed between developed countries and Arab countries. These include, for example, the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement,
the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, the association agreements with
the EC, free trade agreements with the European Free Trade Association
(EFTA). In current bilateral trade agreements, economic hegemonies such
as the U.S. or EC dictate the rules and use them to their advantage. For
example, the EC association agreements adopt a selective agricultural
import policy by setting limits to the type and volume of farm products
imported into the EC market. The EFTA-Lebanon Free Trade Agreement
of 2004 includes intellectual property provisions that would restrict the
rights of poor farmers, and limit access to generic medicines.107
Legally, all Arab countries should be able to accede to the WTO. According
to article XII of the WTO Charter, any state having full autonomy in
the conduct of external commercial relations may accede to the WTO.
This article kick-starts the accession process. However, pragmatically, there
are other prerequisites, such as human rights, religious freedom, democracy, and no-trade boycotts. Since Arab countries have their own cultures and do not share all western values, they are banned from joining
the WTO. It seems that WTO accession is a power-based process, rather
than a rule-based process, as some legal scholars and WTO members
would claim. The U.S. backing of Arab countries to accede to the WTO
is based on American foreign policy rather than commercial considerations. Syria, for example, is an important trade player in the region but
still outside the WTO club. Until other Arab countries join the trade
body, the universality theme of the WTO is simply a utopian dream.
107 For discussion on the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement See David Price,
The U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement and Intellectual Property Protection, 7. 6 J. WORLD
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY 829, 830 (Nov. 2004) (the FTA between the U.S.
and Bahrain includes provisions and conditions which will require Bahrain to make
significant changes to its intellectual property laws and their enforcement. Many of
these required changes go far beyond the international benchmark of intellectual property right protection as enshrined in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects
of Intellectual Property Rights).
146 bashar h. malkawi
Institutions are never perfect. The way the WTO as an institution runs
its business may not be perfect either. Certainly, the WTO needs a tuneup to project a new image toward the Arab countries. The WTO should
permit accession of Arab countries into the organization at an accelerated rate. In addition, the WTO Secretariat should have more staff from
Arab countries, aside from French and Britons who hold most positions.
If the WTO were to hold a future Ministerial Conference in one of the
Arab countries, it should do so in a genuine and appropriate manner.
To illustrate, the fourth Ministerial Conference was held in Qatar because
of a fear that anti-globalization protestors might disrupt the proceedings
of the Conference, as it happened in the Seattle Ministerial Conference,
not because the WTO wanted to integrate Arab countries further into
the multilateral trading system, a claim advanced by WTO members.
Although for practical reasons the WTO uses â€œmini-ministerialâ€ meetings,
where dozens of members are invited, the WTO should use them to a
minimum since they exclude Arab countries. The WTO should include
Arabic, a language spoken by 280 million people, as a working language
along with the other three working languages (English, Spanish, and
French) in the trade body.
Joining the WTO is a two-way street. Adhering to the rules of the
WTO may enhance global confidence in the Arab countries, with the
likely result of increasing foreign direct investment. Consumers in Arab
countries would enjoy access to a wide variety of products that may otherwise be unavailable. Thus, trade can have an overall positive effect.
However, the dilemma is how to minimize any possible losses and capture any benefits the multilateral trading system offers. Economic reform
and trade liberalization must take into account social upheaval if hundreds of thousands of SOE employees are tossed out of work quickly
without adequate guaranteed pensions. There will be losers among Arab
import-competing industries, but winners among industries and governments should compensate for the loss. Firms facing layoffs should give
their employees sufficient advance notice. Exportable industries should
employ or absorb those who face dislocations. Governments can aid those
who face dislocations because of increased competition by ensuring better access to capital. Additionally, governments of Arab countries should
introduce policies aimed at cushioning the most vulnerable groups from
the effects of trade liberalization by establishing adequate income support, health insurance coverage, re-employment projects, and training programs to develop the skills of those dislocated.
anatomy of the case of arab countries and the wto 147
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