GEORGETOWN: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) has called on the United States to honour a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Antigua & Barbuda over Internet gaming.
A statement issued following a COTED meeting in Guyana last Saturday said the Council had noted that the U.S. has failed to become compliant with the decision of the tribunal and had also failed to reach a settlement with Antigua & Barbuda. During the meeting, the U.S. was urged to reach a fair settlement.
“The Council acknowledged that the case was long outstanding and had the potential to undermine the credibility of the dispute settlement mechanism of the multilateral trading system,” the COTED statement said.
Earlier this year, the Baldwin Spencer government announced that it was adopting a new strategy in a bid to end the dispute with the U.S.
The government said it would make changes to the copyright legislation after indicating that the once flourishing gaming industry has been ruined by U.S. laws prohibiting and criminalizing the provisions of remote gaming services from Antigua & Barbuda to consumers in the United States.
Antigua & Barbuda has criticized the U.S. since 1998 of breaching its commitments to members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) by enacting laws that prevented foreign-based operators from offering gambling and betting services to its citizens.
In 2005, the WTO ruled that Washington had violated international trade agreements by prohibiting operation of offshore Internet gambling sites. Antigua claimed that it lost US$3.4 billion a year due to the U.S. action, but the WTO awarded the island US$21 million.
However, in its final ruling, the Geneva-based WTO has allowed Antigua & Barbuda to suspend certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights.
The government has since appointed a WTO Gaming Negotiation Team chaired by Attorney General Justin Simon.
The committee has the specific objective of designing and implementing an instrument for exercising measures that will act on the authorization for intellectual property rights suspensions against U.S. companies authorized by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body.