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Monday, June 25, 2007

Antigua and Barbuda lodge WTO compensation claim

Antigua and Barbuda lodge WTO compensation claim

With the June 22 deadline looming, who else wants a piece of the USA?

Following hard on the heels of news earlier this week that the European Union has claimed compensation from the United States over its decision to withdraw certain World Trade Organisation commitments, the Caribbean and UK media report that Antigua and Barbuda has also submitted a claim.

The island nation started the furore when in 2003 it took the United States before the WTO disputes panel in a David and Goliath argument over American moves to ban online gambling despite carve-outs within its own laws for Internet gambling by the state lotteries and horse racing industries.

Antigua and Barbuda claimed that the actions of the United States prejudiced it and were not in compliance with US trade commitments made when it joined the WTO.

After a protracted struggle, the World Trade Organisation finally ruled against the United States, whereupon the US Trade Representative relocated the goal posts with a decision to remove online gambling from the original trade commitment of the US. This unprecedented action evoked widespread criticism.

However, WTO policies require a member country taking this unusual course of action to be subject to claims for compensation from other WTO members prejudiced by the withdrawal of commitments. The deadline for this is June 22 and the European Union has served notice that it intends to claim, saying it would seek commitments in other trade sectors to replace losses incurred by operators who had to exit the US market.

Bloomberg's news service indicates that Antigua will file its claim today (Wednesday) two days ahead of the deadline, and that up to $3.4 billion a year will be the amount claimed, primarily through the suspension of global copyright and intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreements.

The Antigua and Barbuda minister of finance, Dr. Errol Cort, has been deeply involved in the dispute with the US from the outset and is quoted as saying: "We feel we have no other choice in the matter, we have fought long and hard for fair access to the U.S. market and have won at every stage of the WTO process.

"This industry has been and can be regulated,'' he said, adding that the dispute isn't a moral issue, as claimed by the U.S.

Source: Casinomeister News / InfoPowa

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