Venezuela has filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), calling U.S. sanctions against it “discriminatory.”
According to the text of the complaint, several specific pieces of legislation passed by the U.S. government violate numerous statutes of the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade, such as the favored treatment of certain nations.
The Venezuelan list of grievances includes several statutes, regulations and executive orders, all intended to target the Venezuelan economy. Of particular note for those watching the growth of cryptocurrencies worldwide was Venezuela’s issue with an executive order from President Donald Trump issued last March, “Taking Additional Steps to Address the Situation in Venezuela.”
Through this order, the U.S. specifically prohibited “all transactions related to, provision of financing for, and other dealings 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.”
This was an obvious response to Venezuela’s attempt at launching a cryptocurrency of its own, the petro. The petro has several features that make it particularly unusual to the world of cryptocurrency, but it is maintained on a blockchain ledger. For one, the currency is completely centralized, issued and maintained only by the Venezuelan government. Also, it is tradeable for Venezuelan crude oil. The petro has faced several attacks from U.S. lawmakers, but Trump’s executive order has been the most direct and effective.
As a result, it is the target of Venezuela’s complaint. According to Reuters, the U.S. has 60 days to respond to these allegations or the WTO will be able to take matters into its own hands on Venezuela’s behalf.
However, nothing is likely to come of Venezuela’s complaint. The Reuters report openly doubted the ability of the WTO to force any consequences on the U.S. government, citing the established precedent of the government’s “essential security interests” defense. Reuters also pointed out that the “U.S. block on new judicial appointments means the WTO system is set to be paralyzed from December 2019, and disputes filed now are likely to end up in legal limbo.”