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Pols Pressure President Over Saudi WTO Entry

Senators and members of the House of Representatives are calling on the Bush administration to oppose Saudi Arabia’s admittance into the World Trade Organization unless the kingdom clearly renounces its support of the Arab boycott against Israel, aggressively cracks down on terrorist financing and improves its human rights record.

In two separate letters sent last week by senators and House members to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, the legislators argue that Saudi Arabia’s support of the Arab boycott and its questionable record in financing terrorism were not raised by the Bush administration’s negotiating team as concerns, while discussing with the Saudi government its bid to join the WTO.

The senators and House members point out that according to a 1994 law, the U.S. Trade Representative should “vigorously oppose” the admission into the WTO of any country that “fosters, imposes, complies with, furthers, or supports” a boycott, such as the Arab League’s boycott of Israel. “The failure of U.S. negotiators to address fully Saudi Arabia’s continued participation in and support for the Arab League boycott as part of the ongoing trade negotiations represents a complete disregard for Congress’s instructions to USTR on this issue,” the House letter says.

Washington and the European Union posed several requirements for Saudi Arabia’s admittance to the WTO. Among them, insurance and intellectual property protection rules, as well as Saudi regulations regarding insurance and the Saudi dual-pricing policy for gas. Human rights, the Arab League boycott and financing terrorism were not among the demands posed to Saudi Arabia.

Under WTO rules, a country that applies to join the organization must reach agreements with its main trading partners regarding market access and cutting customs. Such agreements are subsequently widened to apply to all other WTO members.

Richard Mills, a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, said: “We are very mindful of the various requirements set by Congress” to admit new members to the WTO and would take the letters under advisement.

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