When Saudi Arabia joined the World Trade Organization, they promised to end their participation in the Arab boycott of Israel, but they have not done so, according to a Jerusalem Post story (see below). A Reuters dispatch however, claims that the Saudis are abiding by the WTO agreement. This is a story we've been following for quite some time.
The confusion is created by the fact that the Saudis have agreed supposedly, to drop the secondary boycott, that is, the boycott against companies that do business with Israel. The boycott against Israeli products is still in force.
This distinction is not reflected in news reports. It allows the Jerusalem Post to declare: "Saudis Flout Vow to US to End Israel Boycott"
and to quote Saudi officials saying, "If a product is made in Israel, then it is a problem. It is not allowed here." Jerusalem Post is undoubtedly right. On the other hand, the Washington Post can reassure its readers "Saudis have assured not boycotting Israel: US aide"
Susan Schwab, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, stated, "If Israel believes Saudi Arabia is boycotting its goods and services, it could bring a case against Riyadh at the WTO and "the United States could support such a case." That is disingenuous. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes or even the CIA to know that no Israeli goods can be imported to Saudi Arabia. In fact, Schwab should have known that a former US official, Brad Bourland, noted in a recent report issued by a Saudi bank:
"Saudi Arabia's trade stance toward Israel does not change due to WTO accession... The primary Arab League boycott of Israel remains in place."
Evidently, the US and WTO have decided on a "see no evil, hear no evil" charade that ignores Saudi flouting of the anti-boycott provisions. There are about 10 million reasons for that, as many reasons as the number of barrels of oil the Saudis ship each day.
(Source articles are below)
Saudis Flout Vow to US to End Israel Boycott
By Michael Freund The Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2006
Despite renewed assurances given to Washington that it is no longer enforcing a trade boycott against the Jewish state, Saudi Arabia continues to prohibit Israeli-made goods from entering its territory, The Jerusalem Post has learned. And while a senior US trade official sought to assure Congress last week thatthe embargo had in fact been removed, the Post found ample evidence to indicate that it remains in place."If a product is made in Israel, then it is a problem. It is not allowed here," Muhammad al-Matrafi, a spokesman for the Director's Office of the King Khalid Airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, said by phone on Monday."That is the law here in Saudi Arabia, and we do not allow those kinds of things into the kingdom," he said, adding, "If there is any mention of Israel on the container or on the product, then it can not enter Saudi Arabia."
A Saudi customs official at the Persian Gulf port of Ras Tanurah was equally adamant that no Israeli-made goods would be permitted to enter the country."There is still a ban on Israeli products, and anything declared as coming from Israel will not be allowed," said the customs official, who gave his name only as Capt. Hosni. "Some people may try to say that a product was made elsewhere, but if there is anything which shows it was made in Israel, then it is a problem," he said.
Another Saudi customs official at the Al Durah land crossing on the Saudi-Jordanian border reaffirmed that the ban on Israeli-made goods remains in place. Asked by phone if products made in Israel could be brought into the desert kingdom, he angrily replied, "No, no, no. Absolutely not," before hanging up. The Saudi position appears to contradict assurances given last week by US Deputy Trade Representative Susan Schwab. In written responses to questions raised by members of the Senate Finance Committee, Schwab said that Saudi Arabia had told Washington that it was abiding by its
pledge to end the boycott of the Jewish state.
In November 2005, the Saudis promised the Bush administration that they would remove restrictions on trade with Israel, after Washington conditioned Riyadh's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) on such a move. But, as the Post first reported on March 7, the Saudis went ahead and played host to a major international conference aimed at intensifying the anti-Israel boycott, raising concerns in Congress about Riyadh's compliance with its commitments. In addition, an official Saudi delegation took part in a meeting of the Arab League's boycott office in Damascus earlier this month.
"We have raised this issue directly with senior Saudi officials on several occasions, both in Riyadh and in Washington," Schwab told the Senators last week. "In all cases, we have received assurances that Saudi Arabia fully understands and remains committed to its WTO obligations, including the WTO obligation to treat all WTO members according to WTO rules."The WTO bars members from engaging in discriminatory trade practices, such as embargoes or boycotts.
Nonetheless, the Post has also found that a report authored by a former US diplomat and issued recently by one of the largest banks in Saudi Arabia reaffirms that the country's boycott of Israel remains in place, despite Riyadh's accession to the WTO.The 44-page document, "Saudi Arabia and the WTO," was prepared by Brad Bourland, chief economist at the Saudi Samba Financial Group. Bourland previously worked for the US State Department for 18 years, including as first secretary of the American Embassy in Riyadh, where he was responsible for analyzing the Saudi economy on behalf of the US government. In a question-and-answer section Bourland's report notes that, "Saudi Arabia's trade stance toward Israel does not change due to WTO accession... The primary Arab League boycott of Israel remains in place."
May 22, 2006Saudis have assured not boycotting Israel: US aide
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has assured the United States it no longer enforces the Arab League boycott of Israel, even though it attended a recent meeting in Damascus to discuss ways to tighten it, a top U.S. trade official said in remarks released on Monday.
"We have raised this issue directly with senior Saudi officials on several occasions, both in Riyadh and in Washington," Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in written responses to questions raised by members of the Senate Finance Committee.
"In all cases, we have received assurances that Saudi Arabia fully understands and remains committed to its WTO obligations, including the WTO obligation to treat all WTO members according to WTO rules," Schwab said.
President George W. Bush has nominated Schwab to be U.S. Trade Representative, as current USTR Rob Portman is moving to the White House to be budget director. She responded to the committee's written questions as part of her confirmation process.
A number of the questions focused on whether Riyadh was honoring a commitment that it made when it joined the World Trade Organization last year to abide by all WTO rules, which would mean ending its boycott of Israel.
Senators expressed concern that Saudi officials had attended a recent Arab League meeting in Damascus to discuss ways of tightening the trade embargo.
Schwab said Riyadh said it routinely attends Arab League meetings and that attendance at a meeting related to the boycott was not a violation of its WTO commitments.
"Rather, (the Saudis said) the Saudi representative would take the opportunity to explain the kingdom's WTO commitments to other members," Schwab told the senators.
Nonetheless, the United States told Riyadh it believes "attendance at these types of meetings reflects poorly on their obligations to WTO members," Schwab said.
If Israel believes Saudi Arabia is boycotting its goods and services, itcould bring a case against Riyadh at the WTO and "the United States could support such a case," Schwab said.
If Saudi Arabia boycotts U.S. companies doing business with Israel, U.S. trade officials will immediately raise the issue with Riyadh and could file a case at the WTO, she said.
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