An online gambling dispute stretching back some 14 years has been getting some fresh attention thanks to recent storms afflicting the Caribbean.
Late last month, a representative from Antigua and Barbuda appeared before the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body to say now is the time for the United States to pay for dealing a major blow to the country’s internet gambling sector over a decade ago.
Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders urged a resolution the case. The WTOpreviously determined that the U.S. violated international trade law when it cracked down on online gambling sites serving Americans that were operating out of Antigua and Barbuda.
“It continues to be most unfortunate that, despite 14 long years of deprivation, Antigua and Barbuda has to appear before this body, year after year, to report that the United States has not seen it possible to offer fair and equitable terms to my small country for the significant losses in trade revenues that it has suffered as a result of U.S. violation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS),” Sanders said.
Sanders said that his delegation is “compelled” to point out that “the trade losses to Antigua and Barbuda now stand at more than US$200 million.”
The issue was last discussed in November, with the U.S. apparently implying that the country was taking too long weighing the settlement offer. Sanders said that the U.S. offered to settle for $2 million, a deal which was rejected. Pursuing the case has cost Antigua and Barbuda more than that amount, said Sanders. The U.S. allegedly said that the offer was “generous.” After rejecting the offer, Antigua and Barbuda claim that the U.S. has been unresponsive.
Back in January, the country said it was optimistic about President Trump.
Antigua and Barbuda said that “extreme harm” was done to its economy thanks to America’s position that “cross-border gambling is a matter of public morality.” Sanders said that U.S. is being hypocritical because New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada have legal internet casino gambling, and a handful of other states have internet lottery offerings. The federal government decided in 2011 to allow states to pursue internet gambling within their respective borders.
“What is more, while the U.S. has banned internet gaming from foreign providers, domestic gambling service providers continue to operate and thrive,” Sanders said.
The nation said that amid the dispute the U.S. has enjoyed a trade surplus with it of U$2 billion, and it continues to purchase almost 70 percent of its goods and services from the U.S. “While the trade revenues losses to my small country is almost 20 percent of our GDP, settling with us would represent only .0011 percent of one year of the GDP of the United States.”
‘The ravages of Hurricane Irma’
The recent devastation to Barbuda makes now the right time to settle, according to Sanders.
“Three weeks ago, the island of Barbuda, our second most populous island, was completely decimated by the Category 5 hurricane’s battering. My government was forced to declare the island a disaster and to evacuate all the residents to Antigua where they are now being maintained in difficult and cramped circumstances despite our best efforts with limited resources.”
“For the first time in 300 years, there is not a single permanent resident on Barbuda, and Antigua is faced with an unexpected and unscheduled increase of three percent of its population and all the demands that such a sudden influx of people entails. Additionally, we are confronted with an estimated cost of more than US$250 million to rebuild Barbuda and to resettle its inhabitants in their homeland. There would be no better time than now, for the United States to settle this long-running issue which mars an otherwise friendly relationship between our two countries.”
Antigua and Barbuda still has the option of implementing the suspension of U.S. intellectual property rights as a form of retaliation. The action hasn’t been taken because the islands have “too high a regard for the U.S. owners of intellectual property who have contributed much to the enjoyment and advancement of the world.”
“It would be very regrettable, if tiny Antigua and Barbuda were compelled to be the first country to have to suspend payment of U.S. intellectual property rights despite its best efforts to reach a settlement with the U.S., its largest and richest neighbor to whom it has always been—and remains—a friend.”
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