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US Stalls Antigua Dispute Again

By: Adam Baker, Wednesday December 19th 2012
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Antigua and Barbuda is the oldest online gambling jurisdiction, but it cannot match the United States in the international arena. USA has once again stalled World Trade Organization (WTO) action in its long-running dispute with Antigua and Barbuda over online gambling.

Antigua had submitted to the WTO Secretariat a request for the matter to be included on the agenda for deliberation by the Dispute Settlement Body. The Secretariat, in consultation with USA, decided that the request was untimely and therefore no discussion took place. Antigua’s High Commissioner to London, Carl Roberts, however addressed the WTO Dispute Settlement Body making it clear that there had been no delay or fault in this matter on their part. Roberts went on to state that Antigua and Barbuda is a small and developing country that is under economic stress. Antigua does not have the resources to maintain a mission in Geneva and the pursuit of its rights under the WTO agreements have been expensive, time consuming and difficult. He added, “It is very unfortunate that we were, under all circumstances, denied the ability to present our suspensions request to this body today. We will be back to do so in January.”

Roberts also pointed out that Antigua had sought to exercise its suspension rights only after due consideration. The dispute between Antigua and the USA over the latter’s discriminatory restrictions on online gambling has been before the WTO since 2003. In 2004 and 2005, the dispute panels found that the USA had violated its 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services which allows online gambling. The arbitration report was released in December 2007. However, the USA has successfully stalled the imposition of retaliatory sanctions by the Antiguans. Roberts stated that a five years wait was more than sufficient before asking for more punitive action.

Roberts also drew attention to the fact that Antigua and Barbuda has been working hard to achieve a negotiated solution to this case. Several proposals have been put forward to the US government. Every time the Antiguan delegation has travelled to Washington, hoping to find some common ground. However the United States has stonewalled every attempt. America has not presented any proposal and has made no sincere effort to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.

Roberts also outlined the consequences of the inaction in Antigua. He said, “In the meantime, what was once a multi-billion dollar industry in our country, employing almost 5% of our population has now shrunk to virtually nothing.” A number of Antigua citizens have been criminally prosecuted and a number are still face arrest, prosecution and incarceration by American authorities.

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