Antigua expects big WTO online gambling win


Friday is a big day for the United States as it awaits the ruling by a World Trade Organization arbitration panel in its dispute with Antigua and Barbuda over online gambling. Friday is also the deadline for negotiations between the United States and the European Union.

Representatives for Antigua and Barbuda told the Guardian Unlimited this week that the nation expects to receive a big damage award when the arbitration panel releases its decision on Friday.

The two-island Caribbean nation is asking for $3.4 billion in damages from the United States for not complying with the WTO's decision that its online gambling ban violates trade agreements. However, the counteroffer from the United States was $500,000.

When the two countries couldn't reach a settlement agreement, the issue went to the WTO arbitration panel to be decided.

Antigua is asking permission to suspend copyright protections on American movies, music and software so its manufacturers can export copies of those products to the United States and other markets to make up for the loss in business.

"I think we provided plenty of proof to justify our figure," said Mark Mendel, an attorney representing Antigua and Barbuda, in the Guardian Unlimited article. "We feel pretty confident it should be a high number. I think there's no doubt that we're going to get the ability to cross-retaliate."

After Antigua and Barbuda got its final ruling that the U.S. online gambling laws were still not in compliance with WTO trade rules, the United States chose to change its trade agreements rather than change the laws to allow online gambling.

In doing so, the nation opened itself up to claims from other nations who have interests in the online gambling sector as well.

The European Union has been in negotiations with the United States to come up with an agreeable settlement as well. The deadline for their talks was reset to Dec. 14.

Gambling companies based in European Union countries have urged the European Union to seek as much as $100 billion in compensation. If an agreement isn't reached by Friday, the European Union could also ask for a WTO arbitration panel to decide the matter.

Nao Matsukata, a senior policy adviser with the law firm Alston & Bird, told the Guardian Unlimited he expects the U.S.-EU compensation talks to drag on past Friday. That also means they could be influenced by the arbitrator's report for the Antigua and Barbuda dispute.

"The Antigua report could clearly advantage one side or another depending on how it comes out," Matsukata said in the article.

Several other nations have stated their intent to file claims as well, including Japan, Canada and Australia.

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