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US Bill Boosts Antigua And Barbuda's WTO Case

by Mike Godfrey,, New York

11 July 2013

The increased push by American legislators to legalize online gambling within the United States borders bodes well for Antigua and Barbuda, in the ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) cross-border trade dispute.

"This is of considerable benefit to us...It vindicates what we have said all along," lead counsel for Antigua and Barbuda in the matter, Mark Mendel, said to local and regional media during the taping for Sunday evening's Media Roundtable program on ABS.

Mendel was referencing a new Bill introduced by US Congressman Peter King in June. If passed, The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013 would federally legalize online gambling in the US.

The legislation would also allow US states, including New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada — all of which have legalized internet gambling, in some form — to continue to offer these services.

Mendel, who has led the dispute for ten years, said these recent efforts by US legislators weaken the nation’s previous stance that they were "adverse to gambling."

"Now that they are moving in that direction themselves, forcefully...that pretty much completely takes away their formal defense at the WTO," the attorney declared.

Noted financial service firm Morgan Stanley has also predicted a change in fortunes for the US's online gambling sector, forecasting the industry would be worth USD9.3bn by 2020 in a recent report. This would top the combined earnings of both Las Vegas and Atlantic City in 2012.

The Ireland-based attorney said these new revelations have also compelled the international community to rally behind Antigua and Barbuda's call for an equitable resolution in the matter.

He said this was evident at last month's meeting of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body where the nation garnered significant support, saying, "Before we had no support, now we have a lot."

"Different countries (are) standing up and telling the Americans that they have to comply with the rulings and negotiate with us fairly. I think it has made a very big difference in that regard," Mendel said.

Mendel named Venezuela, Brazil and China, along with other Caricom and European countries, as supporters of Antigua and Barbuda’s attempts to seek a resolution to the decade old trade dispute.

Despite the WTO finding in Antigua and Barbuda's favor in 2004 and upholding the decision in 2005, the US remains non-compliant and has failed to satisfactorily negotiate the matter.

However, Mendel assured the panel the twin-island nation is now more determined than ever to resolve the trade dispute promptly.

Although he stressed negotiation is the preferred route, a six-month plan has already been developed, outlining steps towards suspending and monetizing the nations’ right to disregard certain US intellectual property rights.

"We have been as kind and gentle and patient as you could expect a government to be over ten years and it hasn't gotten them (US) in the mode of actually negotiating fairly. This is the way to make that happen," Mendel said.

In January, Antigua and Barbuda requested and was granted the right to suspend US trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS), to the tune of USD21m per year, accruing since 2006.

TAGS: TRIPS | law | intellectual property | offshore | internet | gambling | legislation | offshore e-gaming | Antigua and Barbuda | United States | services

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