ANTIGUA PROTESTS AT LACK OF WTO ACTION ON GAMBLING DISPUTE WITH THE USA
19th December, 2012 at 03:37:48
Island government spokesman says it has not been allowed to raise its on-going dispute with the United States on Internet gambling
The United States has apparently again been successful in stalling World Trade Organisation action in its long-running dispute with Antigua and Barbuda over online gambling.
On Monday Antigua and Barbuda's High Commissioner to London, Carl Roberts, addressed the WTO Dispute Settlement Body noting that his government had submitted to the WTO Secretariat a request for the matter to be included on the agenda for deliberation.
Unfortunately, we will not be requesting this authorisation today because the Secretariat, in consultation with the United States, decided that our request was untimely, despite being here in this building prior to the completion and dissemination of the notice," Roberts said.
Antigua and Barbuda is a small, developing country, under particular economic stress in these difficult times. We haven't the resources to maintain a mission here in Geneva, and the prosecution of this case and the pursuit of our rights under the WTO agreements have been expensive, enormously time consuming and difficult.
It is very unfortunate that we were, under all circumstances, denied the ability to present our suspensions request to this body today. We will be back to do so in January, Roberts said.
The dispute, over America's discriminatory restrictions on internet gambling, has been before the WTO since 2003 as the two sides alternatively negotiated and argued before dispute panels, with the Antiguans generally coming away ahead (see previous reports).
In rulings in 2004 and 2005, the dispute panels found that the USA had violated its 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which allows Internet gambling.
Nevertheless, the USA has been successful in continually stalling the imposition of retaliatory sanctions by the Antiguans.
In 2007, the WTO awarded Antigua and Barbuda the right to target USA services, copyrights and trademarks in retaliation for its online betting ban. But the WTO capped the limit of annual trade sanctions at US$21 million...way below the $3.4 billion limit sought by the islanders (see previous reports).
Roberts concluded his address Monday by expressing disappointment that the matter remained unresolved, and reiterating his government's position on the issue, saying:
We did not come to the decision to exercise our suspension rights lightly. The first dispute settlement panel ruled in our favour in 2004. The reasonable period of time in our case expired on the 3rd of April, 2006. And the report of the arbitrators under Article 22.6 of the DSU was released almost exactly five years ago, in December 2007.
In the meantime, what was once a multi-billion dollar industry in our country, employing almost five% of our population has now shrunk to virtually nothing. A number of our citizens have been criminally prosecuted, and a number are still under the spectre of arrest, prosecution and incarceration by American authorities, for ostensibly violating the very laws ruled in violation of US obligations under the GATS in our case, Roberts said.
Over the years since our last WTO proceeding in this matter, our government have not been sitting idly by. Nor have we been imposing unrealistic or unbending demands upon the United States. In point of fact, Antigua and Barbuda has been working hard to achieve a negotiated solution to this case.
Despite this diligence in seeking reasonable and lawful relief, the Antiguans had repeatedly come up against a brick wall, the High Commissioner explained, noting that:
We have tabled proposal after proposal to the US government, and attended session after session, in pretty much every case involving our delegation travelling to Washington, D.C., in hopes of finding some common ground.
But to date, the United States has not presented one compromise offer of their own, and in particular the US Trade Representative has made, to our belief, no sincere effort to develop and prosecute a comprehensive solution that would end our dispute.
We have spent the past five years searching, at great expense and considerable effort for our little country, for the person or persons, the agency or agencies, whomever has the authority and will to work with us to come to a reasonable, just and fair resolution of our dispute,' Roberts said.
"Sadly we have never found that person, that agency, that whomever.
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