Caricom concerned over unsettled Antigua, US gaming issue

Caricom says it is concerned that the United States and Antigua and Barbuda have failed to negotiate a settlement, years after the WTO ruled in favour of the Caribbean country following an internet gaming services dispute.

Antigua’s Prime Minister, Baldwin Spencer reported to regional heads during a summit in Jamaica on the US non-compliance with the 2007 ruling of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement body as it relates to the provision of remote (internet) gaming services.

In a communiqué issued following the summit, regional leaders expressed strong solidarity with Antigua saying they are deeply concerned that there has been no tangible result despite efforts by the Caricom state to have the issue resolved. The leaders said they are also equally concerned about the negative impact on the economy of Antigua and Barbuda brought about by the significant contraction of the gaming sector through the departure of business operators and the dramatic decline in employment as a consequence of the dispute.

“The Caribbean Community fully subscribes to a rules-based multilateral trading system and fully endorses the right of Antigua and Barbuda to seek to impose retaliatory trade sanctions on the United States of America consistent with the WTO DSB ruling”, the leaders stated.  However, they called on the parties to exhaust all possibilities for a negotiated settlement in the spirit of continued partnership.

Regional leaders pointed to the longstanding, co-operative and mutually beneficial relations that Caricom shares with the US, citing the recent ten-year extension of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) to 2020 and the recently launched Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. They are calling for an early engagement at the highest appropriate political level with the United States, to bring about a mutually agreed settlement of the matter.

Antigua and Barbuda’s government had commenced the dispute resolution process at the WTO to challenge the US totally prohibiting cross-border gambling services offered by Antiguan operators back in 2003. The Caricom state again approached the settlement body in 2007 after it failed to reach a deal with the US and the country was awarded a settlement of US$21 million per year in trade sanctions as compensation.

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