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Antigua and United States Talks Deadlocked

By: R Kingsley, Thursday July 24th 2008
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The talks between the small island of Antigua and the United States have reached an impasse. The talks revolve around online gambling. Specifically they concern America's refusal to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling that affirms Antigua's right to provide online gambling services to American residents. America has imposed such severe financial constraints under the UIGEA that it has become almost impossible for Americans to transfer funds to offshore online casinos.

The WTO had awarded a $21 million order towards loss of business as a result of America's stance. The United States first appealed, then withdrew its appeal and finally withdrew from that section of the WTO agreement. This gave two options to Antigua. One was to begin production of goods otherwise protected by US intellectual property rights. This was not a course that Antigua wanted to follow. The other was to renegotiate the terms of the WTO judgment. It was with this intent that talks were being held. Antigua had several times pushed back the deadline given by the WTO for the resolution of the dispute. Antigua's Minister of Finance, Errol Cort, had gone on record stating that he hoped the issue would be resolved this time. A six-member American team under the leadership of US Trade Representative John K. Veroneau went to Antigua. Antigua was represented by Errol Cort, Dr. John Ashe Antigua's ambassador to the WTO, and other officials. However all the optimism proved misplaced. America refused to budge and the situation remains unchanged. The only thing that was agreed upon by the two sides was a new deadline of August 1. Everyone knows that this deadline is meaningless. Some reports suggest that any movement would take at least three months. Others suggest that with the coming Presidential elections in America, the Bush administration will not act but pass the buck to the new President. Some are even suggesting that America does not intent to do anything at all.

The only ray of hope for Antigua comes from the European Union taking on the American might against the latter's stand on online gambling. European online casinos also have suffered since the forced withdrawal of American players. In June the EU contacted the relevant American authorities and informed them that they viewed the UIGEA as discriminatory and sought an explanation from them. The response came from the U.S. Trade Representative's office in the form of a single line terse statement, which said that there was no basis for any allegation of discrimination in the enforcement of US gambling laws. Now a meeting has been fixed between the concerned representatives of the EU and the U.S. officials to discuss the issue. Doubtless the EU will be a more difficult party to handle than Antigua was.

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