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Antigua banking on Trump administration to end online gaming dispute

Published:Wednesday | January 11, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda Gaston Browne.

The Antigua & Barbuda government says it is looking to the new US administration led by Donald Trump administration to end its long-standing battle with the United States over online gaming.

Governor General Sir Rodney Williams, delivering the traditional Throne Speech at the start of a new session of Parliament on Monday, said the Browne administration is also seeking to enact legislation to tackle the issue.

In 2005, the World Trade Organization (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 US action, but the WTO awarded the island US$21 million.

Antigua had been fighting with the US over online gaming since at least 1998.

In its final ruling, the WTO also allowed Antigua and Barbuda to suspend certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights.

In September 2014, the Browne administration said that it was seeking US$100 million to settle the dispute, admitting that while the figure represents a reduction on what St John's had originally been demanding, it is negotiable and could be a mixture of cash and kind.

Last July, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, in a radio and television broadcast, said his administration had dismissed a proposal by the United States to end their long-running dispute and said Washington now owes the island in excess of US$200 million.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said since his party came to office in June 2014, it has engaged the US authorities in discussions.

In his address to legislators, the Governor General said the US "is a very powerful and wealthy state capable of inflicting harm."

"My government believes that the new administration that is about to take office will recognise the lawfulness and justness of our actions and will quickly settle the differences that have kept our negotiators apart.

Hopefully, the US would not turn to intimidation and revenge," Sir Rodney said.

The Governor General said the government is expected to pass laws to recover the revenue it has lost as a result of the dispute.

"It is my government's intention to proceed to Parliament to adopt legislation consistent with a WTO ruling, allowing Antigua & Barbuda to nullify US copyright protections and to benefit from so doing," he told legislators.