12/10/2012 : ANTIGUA TO GO AFTER THE U.S.A. IN WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION GAMBLING DISPUTE (Update)
Finance Minister announces intention to take long-running dispute over online gambling up a gear
The Finance Minister of the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda announced over the weekend that the government intends to pursue retaliatory sanctions against U.S. commercial services and intellectual property following a lack of cooperation from the Americans in implementing the World Trade Organisation's ruling in the islanders' favour.
The long-running dispute has its roots in the US ban on internet gambling, which the islanders claim is discriminatory, inequitable and contrary to WTO treaties, adversely impacting the Antiguan economy.
The two nations have slugged it out through a series of WTO dispute panels since 2003, with the islanders generally coming out ahead in the arguments.
The WTO has ruled that the United States was violating trade law by targeting online gambling without equal application of the rules to American operators offering remote betting on horse and dog racing.
However, little progress has been made in redressing the situation, leaving the Antiguans with the WTO course of the right to target U.S. services, copyrights and trademarks in retaliation.
The WTO has imposed a cap on such retaliation of annual trade sanctions set at $21 million, far short of an Antiguan request for $3.4 billion in retaliatory measures, but more than the United States' bargaining position of $500,000.
On Sunday Antigua's finance minister, Harold Lovell told the Associated Press news agency: “As a small country, it is not our intention to have a fight with the United States. But we believe also that as a sovereign nation we are entitled to all the rights and the protection of the WTO. We believe the time has come having exhausted all other possibilities.”
Lovell revealed that his government plans to formally announce its intentions to pursue punitive action at a December 17 meeting of the WTO in Geneva, at which time it will present specifics on which U.S. industries it intends to target.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office has not yet commented on the latest development.
Antigua claims that thirteen years ago the island hosted, licensed and regulated many internet casino operators, boosting its economy, employing some 3000 islanders and generating around $1 billion in income.
Minister Lovell told Associated Press that the US actions against online gambling had been ‘devastating', reducing the island's income to ‘miniscule' proportions and destroying employment opportunities for some 2,600 islanders
“We have basically been driven over our fiscal cliff …. We feel that we really have had our backs pushed right up against the wall,” said Lovell.
Minister Lovell said the U.S. Trade Representative’s office recently rejected efforts to have the trade dispute referred to the WTO for arbitration, prompting the island government to pursue the counter measures it has been granted.
And he pointed out recent complaints by the USA on China regarding pirating and fake goods, and its threat to take the Chinese to the WTO dispute resolution panel, noting:
“We believe that the same rules that apply to big countries should be the same rules that apply to small countries. It is very difficult for us to sit back and hear the United States speak about unfair trade practices that are alleged against China, and at the same time … we’ve played by the rules, we’ve done everything that we were required to do, we were successful – and yet we have not been able to arrive at a proper conclusion to this matter.”