The Antigua Sun newspaper reminded interested parties this week that the Antigua vs. the United States dispute in the World Trade Organisation over the withdrawal of gambling elements from the agreement by the US may have gone quiet but is far from forgotten.
Finance Minister Dr. Errol Cort, told the newspaper that despite protracted negotiations the parties are no closer to an acceptable settlement.
Reporting on the latest meeting of delegations from the two governments, Dr. Cort said:"We had a series of discussions in an effort to advance the settlement talks; but, today we have not been able to agree on or finalize those discussions."
When contacted, Mark Mendel, Antigua’s attorney at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), said that he understood that yet another extension for a settlement was in the works.
Dr. Cort revealed that he would hold a teleconference with the deputy representative of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on October 7th in a last ditch attempt to make progress. At the end of that discussion, he hoped that a final determination could be made as to which way forward the Antiguans would go with the matter.
He said a number of issues had been discussed with various departments of the U.S. government and that an optimal outcome should be a settlement that would have financial and technical assistance components, as well as a component which would assist with the economic growth of Antigua and Barbuda.
Regarding the issues specific to the gaming companies and their own particular challenges, Dr. Cort stated that those discussions were being held seperately with the U.S. Justice Department.
He pointed to three ways that the scenario could be addressed. One way would be to send the matter back to the WTO and let them determine what would be reasonable levels of compensation, through concessions granted to Antigua and Barbuda, in light of the U.S. withdrawing from its obligations to the WTO on gaming.
Secondly, they could let the matter drag on and try to resolve it with a new U.S. administration after the US elections, with the aim of trying to renegotiate and see whether Antigua and Barbuda could be more successful in resolving the issue bilaterally and in an amicable way.
Lastly, Dr. Cort said, "Or do we just, (notwithstanding our inability to conclude fully on a number of issues), run with what we have?"
He concluded that the matter would have to go through many more discussions for any result to be achieved, suggesting that the issue is still some distance from finality.