Venezuela Appeals to WTO Against the U.S. Sanctions On Its Petro Cryptocurrency

Bhushan Akolkar
By Bhushan Akolkar
Posted on Jan. 10, 2019
Venezuela Appeals to WTO Against the U.S. Sanctions On Its Petro Cryptocurrency

The Venezuelan government is finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet ever since the U.S. has imposed sanctions on its controversial cryptocurrency Petro. The Venezuelan government has pushed back against U.S. sanctions by filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO).  

The complaint filed on the December 28, but published this week, details several actions taken by the U.S. in the recent years. The complaint also notes the restrictions imposed on the “Venezuelan digital currency” transactions. Furthermore, it also accuses the U.S. of infringing Venezuela’s rights under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) signed in 1994. 

The complaint made to WTO reads: 

“The United States has imposed certain coercive trade-restrictive measures on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the context of attempts to isolate Venezuela economically”. 

The Controversial Launch and the Use of Petro

Ailing under the economic pressure put by the U.S. sanctions, Venezuela adopted the crypto route and announced the launch of its Petro last year. Although the Venezuelan government has portrayed the launch to be successful, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the actual use and circulation of Petro. 

The home-grown “national cryptocurrency” of Venezuela has been denounced by the U.S. government, with President Donald Trump himself signing an order against Petro last March. 

The latest complaint to WTO by Venezuela notes that these sanctions are “discriminatory coercive trade-restrictive measures”. Furthermore, the Latin American nation has argued that has argued that its financial service providers receive “less favorable” compared to service providers and suppliers in other WTO member countries. 

Venezuela states that this violates Article II:1 of the GATS which states that no member country shall get a less preferable treatment in comparison to other countries. The complaint notes:

“Furthermore, inasmuch as digital currencies originating in the United States are not subject to the same prohibitions as Venezuelan digital currencies, the United States is according less favorable treatment to Venezuelan financial services and service suppliers than to like domestic financial services and service suppliers, in violation of Article XVII:1 of the GATS.”

Article XVII:1 says that financial services providers and suppliers from other countries should not get less favourable treatment by member countries, against those of their own countries. The Reuters report notes that the U.S. has 60 days to reply to this complaint. If it fails to do so, Venezuela can ask WTO to decide on the right grounds. 

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