Antigua & Barbuda will once again raise its ongoing cross-border gambling services dispute with the United States when the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) meets in Geneva today, Wednesday.
According to the agenda distributed ahead of the meeting, Antigua will make a statement regarding the implementation of the recommendations and rulings adopted by the DSB in the dispute.
Last month, the Antigua and Barbuda government said it had been granted authorisation by the WTO to suspend certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights.
"Having initially received preliminary authorisation to do so from the WTO in 2007 and negotiating in good faith with the United States government for a settlement of the case over the course of the last five years, Antigua is seeking final WTO approval of its sanctions in order to compel the United States to either comply with the rulings in Antigua's favour in the gambling dispute or to negotiate a fair and reasonable solution with the Antiguan government," St John's said.
In 2007, the WTO awarded the small Caribbean nation the right to target US services, copyrights and trademarks in retaliation for its online betting ban. But the WTO capped the limit of annual trade sanctions at US$21 million.
The Baldwin Spencer administration had sought the right to impose US$3.4 billion in retaliatory measures, while Washington offered a mere US$500,000.
The US has since refused to implement the WTO ruling.
In 2003, St John's initiated WTO dispute proceedings against US federal and state laws barring foreign participation in US Internet gambling markets. The WTO, in rulings in 2004 and 2005, found that the US had violated its 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services which the WTO said allows Internet gambling.
The WTO has upheld rulings striking down the US ban, but in 2006, Washington prevented US banks and credit card companies from processing payments to online gambling businesses outside the country.
Observers say today's statement by Antigua will likely respond to comments by US officials last month that appeared to condemn St. John's for moving ahead with retaliation, even though such a step is specifically provided for under WTO law.
Finance Minister Harold Lovell said in a statement last month that he would direct Antigua's WTO delegation to respond to those US comments at the February DSB meeting "in order to discourage the American government from continuation of this most unwelcome and unprecedented tactic."