The Antigua & Barbuda government Monday said it had reached an agreement with stakeholders in the gaming industry in a new effort to resolve a decade-long impasse with the United States (US) over remote gaming services.
Government said that this newly formed partnership, involving the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), will fight for the billions of dollars lost in potential gaming revenue from the online gaming trade dispute caused by the US' failure to abide by numerous rulings of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"Let me be clear: our goal is to negotiate the best possible deal for the people of Antigua and Barbuda. When we are successful, it will result in a rejuvenated industry," said Finance and Economy Minister Harold Lovell.
"Full compliance by the United States will mean jobs and opportunities for our people. Increased jobs, investment and domestic spending will also generate revenues we will use to invest in education, further job creation and job training that will benefit every Antiguan and Barbudan."
In 2005, the WTO ruled that the US 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 Antigua US$21 million.
Chairman of ABIA, Dr McChesney Emanuel, said the public-private partnership enjoys broad support from the Baldwin Spencer government and private-sector stakeholders.
"We agree with this approach and we believe it is a good investment for operators, investors, businesses and for the government. We also believe this new approach will give us an accelerated enhancement towards a settlement that will be fair and beneficial to all."
A government statement noted that for nearly a decade, each time the issue of remote gaming has come before the WTO, it has ruled in Antigua's favour.
"With the US having an elevated and intensified motivation for adhering to decisions of the WTO as a result of a number of high-profile disputes with China, the Antiguan and Barbuda government has organised key stakeholders to stand united to push for a fair and comprehensive resolution of the dispute.
"The government of Antigua and Barbuda has maintained a leadership role in this new public-private partnership and is encouraged by what the pooling of resources and abilities can bring to the table in anticipated negotiations with the United States," the statement said.
It noted that the wider Carib-bean region, including Antigua and Barbuda, has suffered economically as a result of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.
"A recovery of the remote gaming industry would have a substantial positive impact on the country's ailing economy, adding diversity to the tourism industry which accounts for nearly 60 per cent of GDP and 40 per cent of investment."