[DEBATE] : US urges Antigua to delay WTO sanctions on Internet gambling
Riaz K Tayob
riazt at iafrica.com
Sun Dec 30 21:27:13 GMT 2007
US urges Antigua to delay WTO sanctions on Internet gambling
24 December, 2007
The United States has urged Antigua to hold off on imposing sanctions
authorized by the WTO in a dispute over online gambling
WASHINGTON - The United States Friday urged Antigua to hold off on
imposing sanctions authorized by the WTO in a dispute over online
gambling, saying Washington was revising its WTO commitments.
US Trade Representative (USTR) spokesman Sean Spicer advised Antigua to
delay any action after an arbitrator for the Geneva-based World Trade
Organization allowed the Caribbean nation to impose sanctions worth $21
million a year.
Spicer said Washington has initiated a formal process at the WTO to
revise its commitments and is in talks with Antigua and six other WTO
members that have claimed to be affected.
"We would expect that Antigua would not suspend its WTO commitments to
the United States while that process is underway.," Spicer said.
"Once the process of clarifying the US schedule of commitments is
complete, any issues in our bilateral dispute with Antigua will be moot,
and there will no longer be any basis for suspending WTO commitments."
The action marked the latest twist in a dispute with Antigua and
Barbuda, a tiny Caribbean nation that complained in 2003 that the US ban
on Internet gambling violated WTO rules.
Antigua has prevailed in its bid at the WTO to have the US ban declared
improper. But US officials said earlier this year that Washington was
not bound to change its laws to open its borders to the Internet
gambling industry because of an "oversight" in a decade-old trade agreement.
Antigua had asked for sanctions worth 3.44 billion dollars, while
Washington argued this was "patently excessive" and more than three
times the size of the Antiguan economy.
Antigua, with a population of about 70,000, is a centre for offshore
Internet gaming operations and attracts large numbers of US residents to
its online casino-style games and betting services.
US officials announced in May they were submitting documents to clarify
Washington's commitments. They cited a lack of clarity in the 1993-1994
negotiations under the Uruguay Round of international trade talks that
led to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Services (GATS), which took
effect in 1995.
On Monday, US officials said Washington would widen access to some of
its services to compensate the European Union, Japan and Canada to
settle the WTO dispute on Internet gambling with those members.
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