Antigua takes their case to the WTO

18 October 2007

Antigua takes their case to the WTO

On Thursday, Antigua and Barbuda will outline their case before the WTO (World Trade Organization) arbitrators in the on going Internet gaming dispute with the U.S.

The government of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer is seeking US$3.4 billion in trade sanctions against the United States after it banned cross-border Internet gambling.

On Thursday, a three-member panel of arbitrators will hear oral arguments in Geneva from both sides before making a ruling. Officials say a decision is expected on November 30.

Earlier this month, the Antigua government filed a motion with the WTO requesting the suspension of concessions and other obligations.

The 53 page document outlined the country’s rationale that in the absence of Washington agreeing to follow its original WTO commitments, lifting copyright law is the only way the country could be fairly compensated for losses.

Though the Spencer administration has signaled a willingness to negotiate an amicable settlement, Washington is yet to give any indication that it is prepared to come to the bargaining table.

Antigua’s lead attorney, Mark Mendel said “So far, we have been the only ones willing to negotiate, and it takes two to get a deal done. That is what we have always been wanting to happen. Hopefully they will come around and see that it is the best and right thing to do.”

Finance and Economy Minister Dr Errol Cort said, “He is closely monitoring the developments in Geneva.”

Cort is due to travel to Washington next week for International Monetary Fund/World Bank meetings, said, “He is awaiting the outcome of Thursday’s hearing before scheduling a meeting with the officials from the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR).”

Cort also said, “So at least I would be in a better position when I meet with the USTR’s office in Washington to know exactly what position we will take. “

He also added, “So I am still hopeful that we will meet when I go to Washington, but I am awaiting initially the first impressions from our representatives in Geneva at the end of the first day of the hearing on Thursday.”

Last year, Washington barred American banks and credit card companies from processing online gambling payments. The move stunted the growth of the lucrative gaming sector in St John’s.

While WTO last has upheld a US decision to prevent cross border gambling, it ruled that it was illegal for the US to target offshore gambling outlets and not apply the same rules to American operators.

Washington subsequently announced its intention to explicitly remove Internet gambling from its WTO treaty obligations. As a result Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Japan, Macau and the member states of the European Union have filed separate compensation claims.

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