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Antigua's WTO Case Won't Prompt US Reprisal

by Mike Godfrey,, New York

12 July 2013

The people of Antigua & Barbuda need not fear retaliation from the United States, as negotiations in the decade-long World Trade Organization (WTO) trade dispute ramp up.

This is according to McChesney Emanuel, chairman of the nation's WTO Strategic Committee, which is the entity formed last fall to spearhead Antigua & Barbuda's efforts to bring the trade dispute to an equitable conclusion.

"This trade dispute does not have anything to do with our relationship with the United States being tarnished or impacted in any way," the chairman announced on the Observer AM radio program Monday.

Emanuel, who is also chairman of the Antigua & Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), added, "We are very close to the United States ... we still have an excellent relationship with the US. This is a trade dispute, it is normal and they occur."

After investigating the dispute the WTO concluded the US was in violation of WTO rulings and recommendations — remaining so, despite the organization having ruled in the twin-island nation's favor on two separate occasions.

"An industry was destroyed, people's lives were displaced, disrupted and damaged by the US's caused great harm to the economy," Emanuel noted.

In 1998, the US breached its commitments to WTO members by enacting laws that prevented foreign-based gambling and betting services from offering those services to its citizens.

This move decimated Antigua & Barbuda's gaming industry. Independent assessors have estimated the damage to the nation's economy at USD3bn per year, with over 3,000 local jobs lost.

"Antigua and Barbuda has a responsibility to our people to defend its sovereignty, its rights as a sovereign nation ... Antigua should pursue this case vigorously and to the end, because it is right to do so," the chairman declared.

Emanuel is "confident" that strategies devised by the Strategic Committee — under the auspices of ABIA — would be instrumental in promptly resolving the dispute.

He also noted that announcements concerning the nation's strategy would be made over the next few months.

In January, Antigua & Barbuda requested and was given final authorization to suspend US trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) to the tune of USD21m annually, until the country complies with WTO rules or reaches an equitable settlement. To date, US damages due to Antigua & Barbuda stand at USD210m.

TAGS: TRIPS | law | intellectual property | offshore | gambling | offshore e-gaming | Antigua and Barbuda | United States | trade | services | Investment | Invest | Investment

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