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Antigua And Barbuda Demands Justice In US Trade Dispute

by Amanda Banks,, London

19 October 2012

The government of Antigua and Barbuda and the territory's remote gaming industry are to collaborate in an attempt to resolve a decade-long dispute with the United States following its failure to abide by numerous rulings from the World Trade Organization (WTO) in favour of the islands.

In a landmark decision in 2004, the WTO agreed that United States laws criminalizing remote gambling services offered to American consumers were in violation of US international treaty obligations. However, to date, the government of Antigua and Barbuda has said that "it has been unable, despite sustained efforts, to either get the United States to comply with the WTO ruling or negotiate any reasonable compromise to settle the dispute".

Due to the structure of the Antiguan economy, its ability to impose sanctions upon the United States has been limited, as enforcement actions historically permitted in such cases are limited to trade sanctions. However, due to the inferior size of bilateral trade between Antigua and the US in comparison to lost gambling sector revenues, it is said that any such action would fail to compensate the nation in a meaningful way. In 2006, it was estimated that Antigua held a 25% market share in the American market.

This year, the territory's government has met with trade representatives from the United States, and even sought the support of the WTO's Secretary-General Pascal Lamy. Now, through the leadership of the islands' state-run Investment Authority, the government and industry have agreed to pool resources and face US negotiators with new vigour.

Harold Lovell, Minister of Finance and the Economy stressed the importance of the negotiations, stating: "Full compliance by the United States will mean jobs and opportunities for our people. Increased jobs, investment and domestic spending will also generate revenues we will use to invest in education, further job creation and job training that will benefit every Antiguan and Barbudan. Our goal is to negotiate the best possible deal for the people of Antigua and Barbuda. When we are successful, it will result in a rejuvenated industry."

The Minister noted that for nearly a decade, each time the issue of remote gaming has come before the WTO, it has ruled in Antigua's favor. He hoped that the US now has an elevated and intensified motivation for adhering to decisions of the WTO as a result of a number of high-profile disputes with China, and the Antiguan and Barbuda government has organized key stakeholders to stand united to push for a fair and comprehensive resolution of the dispute.

TAGS: compliance | law | international financial centres (IFC) | World Trade Organisation (WTO) | enforcement | offshore | gambling | offshore e-gaming | trade disputes | Antigua and Barbuda | United States | trade

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