ST. JOHN’S: Prime Minister W. Baldwin Spencer has reiterated a call made at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, for the United States to return to the negotiating table to resolve the outstanding trade dispute under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement system.
During recent town hall meetings in New York and Miami, Spencer said that his government has tirelessly for over a decade made attempts to resolve the matter.
During his presentation at the United Nations, Spencer outlined that his government believes that the prolonged dispute has the potential to damage the credibility and undermine the utility of the dispute settlement system of the WTO, and of the WTO itself.
“For over a decade now, the United States has neither removed the offending laws nor agreed on a fair settlement with Antigua & Barbuda that would compensate for the wanton destruction of an entire economic sector.
We believe that it is a blow to the credibility of the WTO to have the world’s largest economy and the WTO’s most powerful member ignore the lawful award of its dispute settlement tribunal without consequence,” said Spencer.
Spencer told Antiguans and Barbudans attending the town hall meetings that the international trading system will not long survive the profound challenge. He said that is why he is once again calling on the United States to correct past wrongs and to come to the table once again with meaningful proposals that can bring the matter to a just conclusion.
The country’s leader pointed out that Antigua & Barbuda had put a number of proposals on the table to resolve the matter including requiring the United States to open an Embassy in St. John’s to serve Antigua & Barbuda and the OECS and making Antigua & Barbuda a first port of entry into the United States.
The Prime Minister was also clear to point out that although his government has until now exercised ‘strategic patience’, it is his government’s intention, through the only mechanism that the WTO has provided, to seek compensation for the thousands of jobs lost, the companies collapsed, and the general devastation of the second largest sector of the economy after tourism.
“More than jobs are at stake here. The WTO must be seen to deliver justice to its members, and especially to one of its smallest constituents. If not, its credibility as the arbiter of international trade disputes will bleed into the dust and hollow out its noble intentions,” Spencer said.