ST. JOHN’S: The government of Antigua & Barbuda is adopting a new strategy in a bid to end its Internet gaming dispute with the United States.
Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack, delivering the traditional Throne Speech at the start of a new session of parliament last week, said the administration of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer would make changes to the copyright legislation this year.
Lake-Tack said 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 America.
She told legislations that these laws have been held to be in violation of international law.
“Accordingly, necessary arrangements would be made to the Copyright Act, the Trademark Act and the Patents Act to invoke the WTO (World Trade Organization) approved sanction by removing any protection which U.S. intellectual property may have in Antigua & Barbuda,” she said.
Last November, Antigua & Barbuda said it was disappointed in the latest round of talks with representatives from the Office of the United States Trade Representatives (USTR) in a bid to resolve the issue.
Antigua & Barbuda has criticized the United States 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.
Ambassador Colin Murdoch, who headed the local delegation to the latest rounds of talks with Washington, said that even if all possible elements in the U.S. proposal were aggregated, the value of the offer would be considerably less than the US$21 million in annual damages awarded by a WTO panel in 2007.
The Spencer administration has appointed a WTO Gaming Negotiation Team chaired by Attorney General Justin Simon. The team includes Murdoch, who is the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Trade, Industry and Commerce.
The committee’s objective is to design and implement an instrument for exercising measures that will act on the authorization for intellectual property right suspensions against U.S. companies authorized by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body.