Update from Lawyer about pending WTO ruling

06 November 2007

Newspaper

Update from Lawyer about pending WTO ruling

As a World Trade Organization panel concludes its review of the claim against the U.S., Antigua and Barbuda can expect to have a ruling on its U.S. $3.4 billion compensation claim by the end of the month.

According to Mark Mendel, the attorney representing Antigua and Barbuda in its WTO dispute over market access for the Internet gambling industry, the arbitration panel’s ruling is scheduled to be delivered on 30 Nov.
That ruling will state how large a sanction Antigua and Barbuda can impose on the United States for its failure to comply with the WTO ruling, which called on the US to bring its regulations in line with its international trade agreements. It will also indicate whether Antigua and Barbuda will be allowed to gain that compensation through the suspension of US intellectual property rights.

Speaking with the Antigua Sun yesterday, Mendel said he feels confident that the arbitration process is going well for Antigua and Barbuda.

“We are in very good shape. This arbitration is proceeding nicely and we’ve done a very good job,” he said.

He noted that the government of Antigua and Barbuda has made it clear that it is prepared to impose sanctions once permission is granted, but he told the Sun that this will not be immediate. “We haven’t fully and completely flushed out precisely what we’re going to do or how we’re going to do it. There is no rush to do it. I think once we get it, it’ll be a pretty big weapon in our hands and we can take our time in deciding how to apply it,” Mendel said.

The attorney said in the event that the ruling is in Antigua and Barbuda’s favour, the government will need to make policy decisions on the status of US intellectual property in this country. He also pointed out that the gaming industry is likely to participate in the formulation of such decisions, since that sector is most affected.

The United States has objected to Antigua and Barbuda’s multi-billion dollar claim on the grounds that US$3.4 billion “is nearly four times larger than Antigua’s entire economy, and thus wildly out of line with any realistic figure.”

A legal team from the office of the United States Trade Representative has instead proposed that $500,000 would be a more reasonable compensation figure.

Antigua and Barbuda has, however, replied that figures from the Internet gambling industry are not included in annual economic figures reported to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.

The attorney explained yesterday that most gaming companies do not report their annual profits, since there is no legal requirement that they do so.  He suggested that this reluctance is linked to fears that the U.S. could use such information to target the companies.

Watch here for the latest updates on WTO, iMEGA, UIGEA and online gambling issues.