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Paris Olympics Aims to Regenerate Poor, Northeastern Suburbs

One of the most deprived suburbs in Paris is expected to be a big winner now the French capital is in line to host the 2024 Olympics with thousands of homes and a new swimming center to be built in Seine-Saint-Denis for the games.

The poorest of France’s 101 mainland departments, Seine-Saint-Denis sprawls east and north from Paris, much of it a drab expanse of grey buildings, abandoned factories and poverty.

Paris learned on Monday that it was a near certainty to be the IOC’s chosen host for the 2024 games when its only remaining rival, Los Angeles, agreed to wait another four years. Budapest, Boston, Hamburg and Rome had all pulled out of the race.

“La Joie est Libre! (Joy Ahead!),” said the front-page headline of L’Equipe sports newspaper, welcoming the news with a play on words. A series of Islamist militant attacks frightened away many visitors from the French capital and city officials hope winning the bid will boost tourism.

Organizers of the games say their aim to lift Seine-Saint-Denis’s fortunes helped their case with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“Bearing in mind the symbolic and real divides which there sometimes still are between Paris and its suburbs, this young, working class place, with young people of all colors and all origins allows us to say to the IOC that these games are a wonderful opportunity to show that Paris is bigger than Paris,” Stephane Troussel, president of Seine-Saint-Denis, told Reuters.

Tony Estanguet, co-chair of the Paris bid, said: “We looked at the success of the games in London and for sure, the fact that London succeeded in leaving a strong legacy, a physical legacy in the east of London, was very important for us.”

Not Convinced

Not all locals are sure of the benefits however. Some have half an eye on Stratford, a swath of east London that was redeveloped for the 2012 games, but where rising rents have pushed locals out of similarly created new housing there.

“When there is a lot of investment landlords will also take advantage by adding a bit, increasing the rents,” said Fode Abass Toure, a 45-year-old resident of Bobigny.

“And even the restaurants will try to increase prices of products because a lot of tourists will come,” he said.

Seine-Saint-Denis has a reputation as a Socialist bastion where the French Communist Party and hard-left have a strong presence. It was in the area where the deaths of two youths who were hiding from police in a power station set off 2005 riots.

Unemployment in and around its main towns of Saint-Denis and Bobigny is approaching double the national average at more than 18 percent. Three out of 10 of its 1.5-million-strong population are immigrants, or the children of immigrants, mostly from Africa, a similar proportion are classed as living in poverty.

The Paris games – which have a relatively modest budget by recent standards at around 7 billion euros ($8.27 billion), will leave behind two permanent new developments, both of them in Seine-Saint-Denis.

They are the Olympic Village itself, which will be converted after the games to provide more than 3,500 homes, and a swimming center to stand alongside the Stade de France stadium, built for the 1998 football World Cup, now to be reborn as the Olympic Stadium where track and field athletes will compete.

“Same in Sport”

At a run-down local pool that will be transformed into a water polo venue, children splashed as they played during a visit by Reuters.

“Sport brings people together,” said sports activity leader Jose Defaria, aged 22.

“Even if we don’t come from the same social background, I think we’re the same in sport, we are brought closer together and we make links and it’s good for everyone. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Paris 2024 – enthusiastically backed by the country’s tennis-playing new President Emmanuel Macron – plans to make the most of the city’s existing sports facilities and take full advantage of its landmarks.

Boxers will compete alongside tennis players at the clay court French Open tennis venue, Roland Garros, on the city’s western fringe, while the nearby clubs Paris Saint Germain and Stade Francais will host respective sports of soccer and rugby.

Distance races on foot and bicycle will start and finish at the Eiffel Tower, in whose shadow the ever-popular beach volleyball competition will play out.

Fencing and taekwondo will be held under the majestic steel and glass of the Grand Palais near the Champs Elysees, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has bet her reputation on the Seine river being clean enough for open water swimming in time for the games.

Attacks Scared Tourists

Official confirmation due in September would mean one of the world’s most visited cities can mark the centenary of the 1924 Paris Olympics with a repeat showing. Amongst the stars of those games was U.S. swimming gold medalist Johnny Weismuller who later became known for his role in the Tarzan films.

Hoteliers are keen for a much-needed shot in the arm.

Although hotel occupancy rates are rising, up 7.2 percent at 76.9 percent in the first half of this year, they are short of the 80 percent rate hoteliers enjoyed in 2014 before Islamist militant attacks scared off tourists.

A successful Olympic legacy is far from assured for any city, with recent hosts enjoying contrasting fortunes.

The legacy of the Athens Games left derelict, run-down arenas and unused stadiums. Four years earlier, Sydney used the Games to develop an Olympic Park which is now a thriving commercial, residential and sporting suburb.

Four years after Athens, Beijing aimed to use the games to showcase itself as a progressive world power. London’s 2012 evoked a feelgood factor before domestic politics reversed that optimism. In 2016, while Rio’s games lacked a certain luster they underlined the South American nation’s ability to deliver in the face of economic and social adversity.

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Satellite Images Could Identify Slave Labor in India

Researchers in England are hoping to help root out modern-day slavery in northern India by using detailed satellite imagery to locate brick kilns — sites that are notorious for using millions of slaves, including children.

A team of geospatial experts at the University of Nottingham use Google Maps and dozens of volunteers to identify potential sites of exploitation and report them to authorities.

“The key thing at the moment is to get those statistics right and to get the locations of the brick kilns sorted,” said Doreen Boyd, a co-researcher on the “Slavery from Space” project.

“There are certainly activists on the ground that will help us in terms of getting the statistics and the locations of these brick kilns to [government] officials.”

Anti-slavery activists said the project could be useful in identifying remote kilns or mines that would otherwise escape public or official scrutiny.

“But there are other, more pressing challenges like tackling problematic practices, including withheld wages, lack of transparent accounting … no enforcement of existing labor laws,” said Jakub Sobik, spokesman at Anti-Slavery, a London-based nongovernmental organization.

Millions of people in India are believed to be living in slavery. Despite a 1976 ban on bonded labor, the practice remains widespread at brick kilns, rice mills and brothels, among others.

The majority of victims belong to low-income families or marginalized castes like the Dalits or “untouchables.”

Nearly 70 percent of brick kiln workers in South Asia are estimated to be working in bonded and forced labor, according to a 2016 report by the International Labor Organization. About a fifth of those are underage.

The project relies on crowdsourcing, a process where volunteers sift through thousands of satellite images to identify possible locations of kilns. Each image is shown to multiple volunteers, who mark kilns independently.

The team is currently focused on an area of 2,600 square kilometers in the desert state of Rajasthan — teeming with brick-making sites — and plans to scale up the project in the coming years.

Researchers are now in talks with satellite companies to get access to more detailed images, rather than having to rely on publicly available Google Maps.

The project is one of several anti-slavery initiatives run by the university, which include research on slave labor-free supply chains and human trafficking.

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French Oysters Go on Sale in Vending Machines

In a change from chocolates and fizzy drinks, the French are starting to offer fresh oysters from vending machines in the hope of selling more of the delicacy outside business hours.

One pioneer is Tony Berthelot, an oyster farmer whose automatic dispenser of live oysters on the Ile de Re island off France’s western coast offers a range of quantities, types and sizes 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

French oyster farmers are following in the footsteps of other producers of fresh food who once manned stalls along roadsides for long hours but now uses machines.

“We can come at midnight if we want, if we have a craving for oysters. It’s excellent; they’re really fresh,” Christel Petinon, a 45-year-old client vacationing on the island, told Reuters.

The Ile de Re’s refrigerated dispenser, one of the first and with glass panels so customers can see what they are buying, is broadly similar to those that offer snacks and drinks at railway stations and office buildings worldwide.

Customers use their bank card for access, opening the door of their choice from a range of carton sizes and oyster types.

Berthelot, 30 years an oyster breeder, sees it as an extra source of revenue rather than an alternative to normal points of sale like food markets, fishmongers and supermarkets.

“We felt as though we were losing lots of sales when we are closed,” he said.

“There was a cost involved when buying this machine, of course, but we’re paying it back in installments … And today, in theory, we can say that the calculations are correct and it’s working.”

Selling oysters from a machine bets on more than just open-mindedness among consumers. Live mollusks not kept cool enough or stored too long out of seawater can cause food poisoning when opened.

The Berthelots say the machine has an appeal to a younger generation accustomed to buying on the internet and unperturbed by the absence of a shopkeeper.

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Miners Union, Federal Officers at Odds Over Increase in Coal Deaths

Deaths in U.S. coal mines this year have surged ahead of last year’s, and federal safety officials say workers who are new to a mine have been especially vulnerable to fatal accidents.

But the nation’s coal miner’s union says the mine safety agency isn’t taking the right approach to fixing the problem.

Ten coal miners have died on the job so far this year, compared to a record low of eight deaths last year.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is responding to the uptick in deaths with a summer initiative, sending officials to observe and train miners new to a particular mine on safer working habits. The push comes during a transition for the agency, amid signals from President Donald Trump that he intends to ease the industry’s regulatory burden.

Federal inspectors powerless

The miner’s union, the United Mine Workers of America, says the agency initiative falls short. It notes federal inspectors who conduct such training visits are barred from punishing the mine if they spot any safety violations.

“To take away the inspector’s right to issue a violation takes away the one and only enforcement power the inspector and the agency has,” UAW president Cecil Roberts wrote in a recent letter to the federal agency.

Patricia Silvey, a deputy assistant secretary at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, said eight of the coal miners who died this year had less than a year’s experience at the mine where they worked.

“We found from the stats that category of miners were more prone to have an accident,” Silvey said in an interview with The Associated Press before the 10th death occurred at mine in Pennsylvania on July 25.

New miners die in accidents

Silvey pointed to a death last May at West Virginia’s Pinnacle Mine where a miner riding a trolley rose up and struck his head on the mine roof. She said the fatality could have been due to the miner’s unfamiliarity with the mine. The miner had worked there nine weeks, according to an accident report. And in the most recent death, a miner less than two weeks into the job at a mine in eastern Pennsylvania was run over by a bulldozer July 25.

Five of the 10 coal mining deaths this year have occurred in West Virginia, and two more in Kentucky. Alabama, Montana and Pennsylvania each had one coal mining death. Nine of the miners killed this year had several years’ experience working at other mines.

The mine safety agency’s injury numbers show that workers who were new to a mine had more than double the injuries. Going back to October 2015, miners who worked at a specific mine less than a year suffered 903 injuries, compared to 418 for miners working at a mine one to two years.

Training for miners

The mine safety agency says it will visit mines and “offer suggestions” on training miners who have been at a mine less than a year. Silvey said the union is correct that inspectors won’t be writing safety violations, but that the initiative “has in no way undermined our regular inspection program.”

The miner’s union said the federal agency should not expect safety suggestions to carry the same weight as citations and fines.

“To believe that an operator will comply with the law on their own free will is contrary to historical experience and naive on MSHA’s part,” the letter said.

Strong enforcement

A former MSHA official said the agency would be “tying the hands” of inspectors if they don’t allow them to write citations on the training visits.

“The record low fatal injury rate among coal miners in recent years is because of strong enforcement of the law,” said Celeste Monforton, who served on a governor-appointed panel that investigated West Virginia’s 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 miners. There were 12 coal mining deaths in 2015 and 16 in 2014.

“It would be a disgrace to see that trend reversed,” she said.

Phil Smith, a spokesman for the miner’s union, said the union’s safety department met recently with MSHA on the dispute, but MSHA maintained it has the authority to conduct observation visits without enforcement.

Safety boss’ position vacant

The mine safety agency’s top position has been vacant since former Assistant Secretary of Labor Joe Main left in January. Main, a former miner’s union official, focused on eliminating hazards at troubled mines by increasing aggressive inspections after West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch explosion. Main declined to comment.

Silvey said a vacancy at the mine safety agency’s top position hasn’t hindered their efforts. She said she knew of no timetable for hiring a new assistant secretary of Labor to oversee the mine safety agency.

“I know one thing, it’s a presidential appointment,” she said.

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Keystone XL Pipeline Survives Politics But Economics Could Plug It

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline survived nine years of protests, lawsuits and political wrangling that saw the Obama administration reject it and President Donald Trump revive it, but now the project faces the possibility of death by economics.

Low oil prices and the high cost of extracting Canadian crude from oil sands are casting new doubts on Keystone XL as executives with the Canadian company that wants to build it face the final regulatory hurdle next week in Nebraska.

The pipeline proposed in 2008 has faced dozens of state and federal delays, many of them prompted by environmental groups who ultimately persuaded President Barack Obama to deny federal approval in November 2015. President Donald Trump resuscitated the project in March, declaring that Calgary-based TransCanada would create “an incredible pipeline.”

Future of pipeline unsure

After all that, a TransCanada executive raised eyebrows in the energy industry last week when he suggested that the pipeline developer doesn’t know whether it will move forward with the project. Paul Miller, an executive vice president who is overseeing the project, told an investor call that company officials won’t decide until late November or early December whether to start construction.

“We’ll make an assessment of the commercial support and the regulatory approvals at that time,” Miller said in the conference call Friday with investors.

The company has invited customers to bid for long-term contracts to ship oil on the pipeline. The bidding will run through September.

Delays have hurt project

An energy expert said the project has been delayed so long it may no longer make economic sense.

“Frankly, in the current price climate, it’s probably not going to be a going venture unless there’s a massive improvement in technology” for processing Canadian crude, said Charles Mason, a University of Wyoming professor of petroleum and gas economics. Crude oil was trading at around $49.50 a barrel on Wednesday, down from highs of more than $100 in 2014.

The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport oil from tar sands deposits in Alberta, Canada, across Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines that feed Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

South Dakota and Montana regulators have approved the project, although there are legal challenges pending in both states. Only Nebraska has yet to give regulatory approval. The rest of the route for the oil to the Gulf would travel an existing pipeline in the network.

A lower-value product

Mason said the biggest economic problem is that synthetic crude from the Canadian deposits is considered a lower-value product because it tends to be heavier, and thus more expensive to refine into gasoline and jet fuel. It’s also more expensive to extract than other oils.

Producers have also found other ways to ship oil, primarily by train, and many are reluctant to sign long-term contracts with a pipeline that wouldn’t go into operation for several more years, said Jeff Share, editor of the Houston-based Pipeline & Gas Journal, a leading industry publication. Given the difficulties, Share said TransCanada has probably a “50-50” chance of completing the project.

The five-member Nebraska Public Service Commission is supposed to decide by Nov. 23 whether the project serves the public’s interests, based on evidence presented by attorneys in a formal legal proceeding beginning Monday and a series of public hearings held over the last few months. The elected commission is comprised of four Republicans and one Democrat.

Protests continue in Nebraska

Environmental opposition to the project has persisted in Nebraska, where opponents say the pipeline would pass through the Sandhills, an ecologically fragile region of grass-covered sand dunes, and would cross the land of farmers and ranchers who don’t want it.

Nebraska law enforcement authorities already have had discussions with their counterparts in North Dakota about how that state handled widespread protests during construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indiana Reservation, said Cody Thomas, a Nebraska State Patrol spokesman.

Protesters led by Native American tribes and environmental groups flocked to North Dakota last summer to rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and some camped out in bitter cold through early this year, prompting the state to send a large law enforcement contingent that sometimes skirmished with protesters. The pipeline was ultimately completed but legal challenges remain.

Pipeline opponents in Nebraska said they are wary of TransCanada’s recent statements and don’t believe the company will surrender without a fight.

“We can’t let our guard down,” said Jim Carlson, a farmer near Silver Creek, Nebraska, who grows corn on the pipeline’s proposed route. “We’ve got to continue to be vigilant and proactive. TransCanada could be doing things just to throw us off.”

Solar panels posted

Carlson said TransCanada has offered him $307,000 since the company first contacted him in 2013, but he refuses to sign an easement agreement to grant access to his land. To highlight his opposition, Carlson is installing solar panels on his land directly in the path of the proposed pipeline.

If the Nebraska commission approves the route, TransCanada can initiate legal proceedings under eminent domain to gain access to the land of holdout property owners. TransCanada has secured agreement with roughly 90 percent of Nebraska landowners along the route.

The company said that if it decides to go ahead with the project, it would need six to nine months to start doing some of the staging of the construction crews followed by two years of construction.

 

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More Women Starting Businesses in US

Women in the United States are starting bushiness at one and a half times the rate of their male peers. Effective entrepreneurship could help cut the economic gap between women and men, which the World Economic Forum says could otherwise take decades to close around the globe. As VOA’s Jim Randle reports, experts say more than one-third of U.S. businesses are headed by women and they expect that percentage to grow.

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Amazon, in Sign of Growth, Holds Job Fair for US Warehouses

Amazon is holding a giant job fair Wednesday and plans to make thousands of job offers on the spot at nearly a dozen U.S. warehouses.

Though it’s common for Amazon to ramp up its shipping center staff in August to prepare for holiday shopping, the magnitude of the hiring spree underscores Amazon’s growth when traditional retailers are closing stores — and blaming Amazon for a shift to buying goods online.

Nearly 40,000 of the 50,000 packing, sorting and shipping jobs at Amazon will be full time. Most of them will count toward Amazon’s previously announced goal of adding 100,000 full-time workers by the middle of next year.

The bad news is that more people are likely to lose jobs in stores than get jobs in warehouses, said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

On the flip side, Amazon’s warehouse jobs provide “decent and competitive” wages and could help build skills.

“Interpersonal team work, problem solving, critical thinking, all that stuff goes on in these warehouses,” Carnevale said. “They’re serious entry-level jobs for a lot of young people, even those who are still making their way through school.”

At one warehouse — Amazon calls them “fulfillment centers” — in Fall River, Massachusetts, the company hopes to hire more than 200 people Wednesday, adding to a workforce of about 1,500. Employees there focus on sorting, labeling and shipping what the company calls “non-sortable” items — big products such as shovels, surfboards, grills, car seats — and lots of giant diaper boxes. Other warehouses are focused on smaller products.

And while Amazon has attracted attention for deploying robots at some of its warehouses, experts said it could take a while before automation begins to seriously bite into its growing labor force.

“When it comes to dexterity, machines aren’t really great at it,” said Jason Roberts, head of global technology and analytics for mass recruiter Randstad Sourceright, which is not working with Amazon on its jobs fair. “The picker-packer role is something humans do way better than machines right now. I don’t put it past Amazon to try to do that in the future, but it’s one of the hardest jobs” for machines.

Besides Fall River, the event is taking place at Amazon shipping sites in Baltimore; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Etna, Ohio; Hebron, Kentucky; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Kent, Washington; Robbinsville, New Jersey; Romeoville, Illinois and Whitestown, Indiana.

The company is advertising starting wages that range from $11.50 an hour at the Tennessee location to $13.75 an hour at the Washington site, which is near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.

Amazon is also planning to hold events for part-time positions in Oklahoma City and Buffalo, New York.

Amazon is “insatiable when it comes to filling jobs at warehouses,” Roberts said. He said Amazon’s job offers could also help drive up wages at nearby employers, including grocery stores and fast-food joints.

“It has a relatively healthy effect in the surrounding area,” he said.

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Foxconn Steers Clear of Trump’s $30 Billion Investment Claim

Foxconn Technology Group is not saying whether it plans to invest $30 billion in the United States, as President Donald Trump claimed he was told by the company’s leader “off the record.”

Trump announced to a group of small business leaders at the White House on Tuesday that Foxconn CEO Terry Gou told him privately that the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer was going to invest $30 billion in the U.S. The company signed a deal with Wisconsin last week to build a $10 billion display panel manufacturing plant and Trump did not specify where the additional spending would be.

Foxconn reiterated in a statement Wednesday that the Wisconsin plant “will be the first of a series of facilities we will be building in several states.” It did not address Trump’s statement about the total investment amount or Trump’s claims that Gou told it to him in confidence.

“We have not yet announced our investment plans for other sites,” Foxconn said in the statement. “We will provide an update as soon as we have finalized those plans.”

Gou previously said that Foxconn was considering locating in seven states before Trump announced last week that a massive liquid crystal display monitors plant would be going to Wisconsin. Other states that Foxconn said it was looking at were Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Foxconn is the world’s largest contract maker of electronics, with factories across mainland China. It’s best known for making iPhones and other Apple devices but its long list of customers includes Sony Corp., Dell Inc. and BlackBerry Ltd.

The new plant in Wisconsin, which is scheduled to open in 2020 with 3,000 employees, will construct liquid crystal display monitors used in televisions and computers. It would bring Foxconn closer to its biggest market and be the first LCD monitor factory located outside of Asia.

The Wisconsin Legislature is considering a $3 billion incentive package that must be passed by the end of September as part of the deal with Foxconn. A public hearing on the proposal was scheduled for Thursday, just six days after a draft of the plan was released and eight days after news of the state’s deal with Foxconn broke.

Republicans who control the Legislature are split on how quickly to pass the bill, with state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald saying there are too many unanswered questions about the tax breaks that must be addressed before a vote. Some Democrats and others have questioned whether the incentives are too much, while also raising concerns about the proposed waiving of state environmental permit requirements and other regulations to speed up construction.

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Trump Administration Planning Trade Action Against China

The Trump administration is considering whether to initiate an action that could lead to the United States imposing tariffs and other trade restrictions on Chinese imports.

U.S. news outlets say President Donald Trump will direct U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin an investigation of China’s trade practices under a section of the 1974 Trade Act. The section is aimed at protecting U.S. industries from unfair trade practices of foreign countries.  

Administration officials say a formal announcement could be made within the next several days.

President Trump and members of his economic team have long accused China of engaging in trade practices that have harmed American businesses, from excess steel imports to theft of intellectual properties.

In an opinion piece published Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross accused China, as well as Europe, of subsidizing their exports through such means as “grants, low-cost loans, energy subsidies, special value-added tax refunds” and other means.   

Despite its complaints, the Trump administration had emphasized cooperation with Beijing during its first six months in office. But bilateral trade talks last month failed to end with an agreement, and the administration has become increasingly frustrated with China’s apparent reluctance to pressure North Korea to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

 

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Qatar Files WTO Complaint Against Trade Boycott

Qatar filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organization on Monday to challenge a trade boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, the director of Qatar’s WTO office, Ali Alwaleed al-Thani, told Reuters.

By formally “requesting consultations” with the three countries, the first step in a trade dispute, Qatar triggered a 60-day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

“We’ve given sufficient time to hear the legal explanations on how these measures are in compliance with their commitments, to no satisfactory result,” al-Thani said.

“We have always called for dialogue, for negotiations, and this is part of our strategy to talk to the members concerned and to gain more information on these measures, the legality of these measures, and to find a solution to resolve the dispute.”

The boycotting states cut ties with Qatar — a major global gas supplier and host to the biggest U.S. military base in the Middle East — on June 5, accusing it of financing militant groups in Syria, and allying with Iran, their regional foe. Doha denies these allegations.

The boycotting countries have previously told the WTO that they would cite national security to justify their actions against Qatar, using a controversial and almost unprecedented exemption allowed under the WTO rules.

They said on Sunday they were ready for talks to tackle the dispute, the worst rift between Gulf Arab states in years, if Doha showed willingness to deal with their demands.

The text of Qatar’s WTO complaint cites “coercive attempts at economic isolation” and spells out how they are impeding Qatar’s rights in the trade in goods, trade in services and intellectual property.

The complaints against Saudi Arabia and the UAE run to eight pages each, while the document on Bahrain is six pages.

No reaction

There was no immediate reaction from the three to Qatar’s complaint, which is likely to be circulated at the WTO later this week.

The disputed trade restrictions include bans on trade through Qatar’s ports and travel by Qatari citizens, blockages of Qatari digital services and websites, closure of maritime borders and prohibition of flights operated by Qatari aircraft.

The complaint does not put a value on the trade boycott, and al-Thani declined to estimate how much Qatar could seek in sanctions if the litigation ever reached that stage, which can take two to five years or longer in the WTO system.

“We remain hopeful that the consultations could bear fruit in resolving this,” he said.

The WTO suit does not include Egypt, the fourth country involved in the boycott. Although it has also cut travel and diplomatic ties with Qatar, Egypt did not expel Qatari citizens or ask Egyptians to leave Qatar.

Al-Thani declined to explain why Egypt was not included.

“Obviously all options are available. But we have not raised a consultation request with Egypt yet,” he said.

In its WTO case, Qatar would also draw attention to the impact the boycott was having on other WTO members, he added.

Many trade diplomats say that using national security as a defense risks weakening the WTO by removing a taboo that could enable countries to escape international trade obligations.

Al-Thani said governments had wide discretion to invoke the national security defense but it had to be subject to oversight: “If it is self-regulating, that is a danger to the entire multilateral trading system itself. And we believe the WTO will take that into consideration.”

Aviation group

Qatar also raised the boycott at a meeting of the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on Monday, al-Thani said.

In comments to Qatar-based Al Jazeera television later Monday, Qatar’s transport and information minister said the boycotting countries had discriminated against Doha in violation of an international agreement guaranteeing overflights.

“These countries have used this right arbitrarily and imposed it on aircraft registered only in the \state of Qatar,” Jassim bin Saif al-Sulaiti said.

Qatar in June asked Montreal-based ICAO to resolve the conflict, using a dispute resolution mechanism in the Chicago Convention, a 1944 treaty that created the agency and set basic rules for international aviation.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain said Sunday that they would allow Qatari planes to use air corridors in emergencies.