ST.JOHN’S: Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has expressed disappointment with the United States over its continued failure to reach an agreement to end the ongoing internet gaming dispute with Washington.
The government of Antigua & Barbuda has established a select committee to oversee the implementation process of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling, as the island seeks to suspend certain concessions and other obligations with the United States in their ongoing dispute.
Spencer told the committee that the implementation of trade remedies awarded by the WTO is an important international responsibility.
“I am pleased that the Committee continues working with expedience, meeting as scheduled and focusing on its mandate to utilize the WTO remedies in a responsible and proper manner,” he said. “This will give Antigua & Barbuda a tangible benefit for our years of perseverance on this matter. Be assured that resolving the WTO gaming case in a fair, reasonable and positive way is a top priority of the government of Antigua & Barbuda.”
The committee is chaired by Attorney General Justin Simon QC, and also includes Antigua & Barbuda Ambassador Colin Murdoch and chief legal counsel in the WTO matter, Mark Mendel.
A government statement said that although its proceedings are confidential, “the Committee is said to be recommending the establishment by the government of Antigua & Barbuda of a statutory body to own, manage and operate the ultimate platform to be created for the monetization or other exploitation of the suspension of American intellectual property rights authorized earlier this year by the WTO.
“It is understood that the necessary domestic legislation to implement the remedies is in the final stages of preparation for submission to Parliament. Additionally, an announcement regarding the opening of tenders for private sector participation in the operating of the platform should be announced shortly.”
The seven-member WTO Remedies Implementation Committee (RIC) is responsible for directing the government’s plan to build the framework necessary to suspend selected U.S. intellectual property rights to the tune of US$21-million per year, effective from April, 2006.
Antigua & Barbuda has criticized the United States since 1998 of breaching its commitments to members of the 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 the U.S. 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.