Tuesday July 16,2013 : The Government of Antigua and Barbuda today announced the formation of a select committee charged with overseeing the implementation process as the nation seeks to suspend certain concessions and other obligations relating to United States intellectual property rights as sanctioned by the World Trade Organisation (the “WTO”) at a session in January of this year.
The seven-member “WTO Remedies Implementation Committee” (the “RIC”), chaired by Antiguan Attorney General Mr Justin Simon QC, is responsible for directing the government’s plan to build the framework necessary to suspend selected US intellectual property rights to the tune of US $21 million per year, effective from April, 2006.
The newly formed committee also includes Permanent Secretary in the Department of Trade, Industry and Commerce, Ambassador Colin Murdoch, Magistrate and Deputy Registrar of Intellectual Property, Conliffe Clarke, Legislative Drafter in the Department of Legal Affairs, Ayesha Baisden, Deputy Financial Secretary in the Department of Finance, John Edwards and two additional persons who will be designated by the Ministry of Telecommunications, Science and Technology and by the Antiguan Intellectual Property office, along with legal counsel, Mark Mendel.
“I am very pleased with the composition of our implementation committee”, said Attorney General Simon, “as it clearly has the expertise that we will need to cover all the bases in the development and implementation of our WTO-approved remedies. I am asking the committee to work with me expeditiously to ensure prompt and proper use of this valuable right”.
Mr Simon further observed that “in addition to devising the implementation scheme, the RIC will also ensure that Antigua and Barbuda will do so in full compliance with all applicable international and domestic laws that might relate to the suspension of the intellectual property rights. As the Antiguan government had announced in the Spring, events have made it clear that recourse to the WTO remedy is at this time necessary if the nation is to progress towards a swift and equitable resolution in the decade long trade dispute with the United States”.
“We have been seeking a fair and reasonable compromise of this matter since the day we brought the case” added Attorney General Simon, “but unfortunately the United States has not yet put a fair settlement offer on the table. Whether or not recourse to these remedies will convince it otherwise, in any event at least there will be some substantial compensation to Antigua and Barbuda as the IP suspensions are implemented”.
The RIC will convene its first organisational session within a week and is expected to deliver its first progress report to government no later than two weeks thereafter.
The United States breached commitments it made to WTO members under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (the “GATS”) by maintaining and enforcing laws which act to prevent foreign-based operators–including those based in Antigua and Barbuda–from offering gambling and betting services on a cross-border basis to consumers located in the United States.
The WTO ruled back in 2004 that these laws contravened the obligations of the United States under the GATS and directed the Americans to bring their laws into compliance with their GATS obligations. The initial ruling was upheld on appeals and despite occasional claims of compliance, the United States remains in violation of international law. Sustained attempts by the Antiguan government to negotiate a reasonable and balanced settlement have not been effective, as the United States has failed to engage with Antigua and Barbuda to date in any meaningful way.
Recourse to the suspension of concessions and other obligations in respect of US intellectual property rights was first awarded by the WTO in late 2007 and confirmed in January 2013. The suspension of these rights is a remedy conferred by the WTO agreements as a means to encourage members to comply with rulings against them.