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Caribbean Pressures US On Antigua Gambling Spat

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

26 May 2014

The Caribbean Community has once again appealed to the United States to honor the first ruling issued by the World Trade Organization in favor of Antigua and Barbuda in relation to US legislation on online gambling.

The WTO ruled in 2004 that the US had violated its commitments as a WTO member, specifically the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), by enacting laws blocking foreign-based operators from offering cross-border gambling and betting services to US consumers. CARICOM has appealed to the US to remove these barriers to overseas gambling operators.

Last year, Antigua was permitted by the WTO to monetize USD21m worth of US intellectual property rights each year as compensation for the US measures. The WTO decided that it would have been impossible to meaningfully compensate Antigua and Barbuda through trade sanctions. The United States has warned Antigua and Barbuda that enforcing the compensation ruling would have severely damaging consequences for the territory and its reputation.

CARICOM's Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) said the US risks undermining the credibility of the WTO's dispute settlement process by failing to comply with the organization's decision on its gambling laws. The statement was issued during COTED's 38th meeting, held in Guyana on the weekend of May 10-11.

Baldwin Spencer, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said that the Caribbean territory has lost more than USD1bn in online gaming earnings annually as a result of the US laws.

In October last year, frustrated with lack of progress in talks with the US, the government of Antigua and Barbuda decided to launch discussions on "harvesting benefits" from the suspension of United States intellectual property rights as per the WTO ruling.

Following consideration of potential measures, Antigua has said it remains hopeful that the United States will return to the negotiating table with an alternative settlement that will not require Antigua and Barbuda to deploy the controversial IP measures agreed by the WTO.

TAGS: law | intellectual property | World Trade Organisation (WTO) | gambling | trade disputes | Antigua and Barbuda | Guyana | United States | trade | services

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