Venezuela Files Complaint With WTO Regarding US Sanctions Against Petro

Venezuela believes the US is unfairly targeting its national cryptocurrency.

  • Venezuela has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), claiming that current US sanctions on the country violate a number of WTO rules and regulations. The complaint asserts that the “coercive trade-restrictive measures” placed on Venezuela’s national cryptocurrency, the petro, are non-pursuant with the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) regulation.

    In March 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting US citizens and residents from investing in or completing transactions with digital currencies connected to the Venezuelan government. The order states:

     “All transactions related to, provision of financing for, and other dealing in, by a United States person or within the United States, any digital currency, digital coin, or digital token, that was issued by, for, or on behalf of the Government of Venezuela on or after January 9, 2018, are prohibited.”

    The executive order argued that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s issuance of a national cryptocurrency was an attempt to circumvent other US sanctions.

    Venezuela’s complaint, however, argues that Trump’s order violates Article XVIII:1 of GATS, which states that no nation that is a member of the WTO shall treat financial services and service suppliers of a fellow member nation less favorably than other member nations. The complaint contends:

    “…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 favourable treatment to Venezuelan financial services and service suppliers than to like domestic financial services and services suppliers.”

    The petro, from its chaotic debut, to its recent forced usage, has been incredibly controversial. Along with the March 2018 executive order, Venezuela’s Asamblea Nacional, a group of politicians at odds with President Maduro’s policies, declared the national cryptocurrency unconstitutional and questioned the $735 million that was raised during the coin’s sale (a number that Maduro tweeted, although he never provided evidence to back the claim).

    As for Venezuela’s complaint, the US has 60 days to respond. If it does not, Venezuela can ask the WTO to mediate.

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