Last week's surprise announcement that U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab had postponed key meetings with European Union officials on a Remote Gambling Association (RGA) complaint accusing the US of discriminatory and protectionist practices in violation of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules has still not been justified….or a new date set.
With her hands full with negotiations with Antigua and Barbuda on another Internet gambling issue, Doha trade arguments and a recent threat by Brazil to launch an action on agricultural subsidies, it is likely that the Trade Representative's team is thinly stretched.
Thus far, Schwab has done little to ingratiate her department with the European Union. In June she dismissed out of hand a European Commission written request for assistance and a questionnaire designed to enquire into the RGA complaint, claiming that there was “no basis for any allegation of ‘discriminatory enforcement’ of US gambling laws”. It is understood that other US departments contacted have not responded at all.
The RGA has claimed that EU online gambling operators have been, and are, subjected to unfair and discriminatory treatment, compared to their US counterparts, by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in relation to their involvement in gambling businesses which took place before the US withdrew from its WTO commitments last December.
RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood is already on record as expressing disappointment with Schwab's somewhat peremptory June response, commenting: “They didn’t answer the questions in the questionnaire, so the Commission will have a wide range of issues they need to discuss, solely because they didn’t get much feedback from the US."
The latest information is that a new date for the meetings is currently being discussed, with the possibility that the EU delegation will travel to Washington in September.