June 29, 2017 / 11:34 AM / 7 months ago

Qatar to raise GCC dispute at WTO, Russia to query US steel plans

GENEVA, June 29 (Reuters) - Qatar will raise its dispute with four other Arab states at the World Trade Organization on Friday, while Russia will air its concerns over possible U.S. steel and aluminium tariffs, a draft agenda showed on Thursday.

The issues will be debated at the WTO’s Council on the Trade in Goods, where the WTO’s 164 members can weigh in on major areas of trade friction. Airing such concerns is not a complaint in itself, but often signals that a legal dispute is on the way.

The draft agenda gave no details of what would be said.

The row in the Gulf erupted this month when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke off ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being an ally of regional foe Iran.

The row has not yet been raised at the WTO, where Qatar and its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, have appeared to work together as usual.

In the WTO agenda, Qatar merely said it wanted to discuss “trade restrictive measures by certain members”.

The Russian item was more specific, entitled “Section 232 investigations on the effect of imports of steel and aluminium products on U.S. National Security”.

The rarely-used section 232 of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act of 1962 allows the president to impose restrictions on imports for reasons of national security.

The Trump administration’s plan to use it has caused a storm of controversy among trade diplomats, who see invoking the WTO’s “national security exemption” as a last resort that could damage the global trading system.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said earlier this month that the Trump administration expects U.S. and World Trade Organization-related legal challenges in response to a possible crackdown on foreign imports of steel or aluminium.

Other items on the WTO agenda include China and the United States both wanting to discuss “trade distorting measures” by the other, with no details provided. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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