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WTO Panel Concludes First Round In Dispute Between US and Antigua & Barbuda

by Amanda Banks, Tax-News.com, London

19 December 2003


The World Trade Organisation panel examining the complaint brought by the Caribbean jurisdiction of Antigua & Barbuda against the United States wrapped up its initial hearing in Geneva on Wednesday, as the tiny state continues the fight for its economic survival.

"This has been a long uphill battle but we have overcome every obstacle so far,” Antigua and Barbuda’s Chief Foreign Affairs Representative, Sir Ronald Sanders commented last week. “These included the US attempt to stop the establishment of the Panel, then its failure to agree with us on the composition of the Panel, and finally its filing of a 'no-case' submission which was overturned by the Panel," he explained.

The dispute originates from an Act championed by Representative James Leach (R- Iowa), who claimed studies have found that Internet gaming sites are at risk of being used by criminals to launder funds and evade taxes, and that they provide a direct pipeline of dollars into terrorist hands.

Antigua and Barbuda is basing its claim on the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and the government argues that the US is violating its commitment to fellow WTO members under GATS by prohibiting the provision of cross-border gambling and betting services.

However, in the eyes of Sir Ronald, the actions of the United States amount to “simply protectionism, nothing more, nothing less".

"The United States has undertaken considerable law enforcement efforts against Antiguan operators (including jailing one of them), yet no enforcement action whatsoever has been taken against its domestic operators, who must present a much easier law enforcement target, given their presence within the territory," argued Saunders.

A further session between the relevant parties has been scheduled to take place over the 26th and 27th of January.


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