Antigua optimistic about U.S. gambling talks

American justice

The United States and Antigua and Barbuda began talks Friday to once again try to settle their online gambling dispute. This time around, Antigua seems more optimistic, according to the Antigua Sun.

Dr. Errol Cort, Antigua and Barbuda minister of finance and the economy, spoke to the Antigua Sun about the renewed negotiations with the United States.

The newspaper characterized Cort as optimistic and quoted him as saying he believes the two parties are closer to a settlement than they were when they first met on Jan. 18, though they are not quite in complete agreement yet.

Cort is unable to comment on the terms being discussed at this time. The two parties have until June 6 to come to terms in the negotiations or the matter could go back to the World Trade Organization arbitrators.

The WTO activities to determine an appropriate settlement for Antigua have been deferred while the two nations talk and try once again to sort the matter out themselves.

"I am hoping that between now and then we would be able to arrive at some understanding in terms of the components of the settlement, failing which, if there is a situation in which we need to extend the time to give further opportunity to conclude settlement talks, then the parties would not be averse to so doing," Cort said in the Antigua Sun.

The current negotiations involve Antigua and Barbuda's claim against the United States for pulling out of its WTO obligations regarding online gambling as well as the settlement necessary to compensate Antigua and Barbuda after the WTO ruled that the U.S. online gambling ban violated WTO regulations.

The dispute has been going on for about five years now, as Antigua first filed a claim with the WTO with regard to the U.S. online gambling ban in 2003.

Since then, the WTO has ruled more than once that the United States' online gambling laws violated WTO policy the nations had agreed to when the WTO was created.

In 2007, the WTO ruled once again that the United States was still in violation and that Antigua and Barbuda was allowed to claim damages from the United States for the violation.

Rather than change the online gambling laws to conform to WTO policy, the United States has chosen to change its commitments to the WTO to not include online gambling. This has opened the nation up to further compensation claims from Antigua and Barbuda as well as from other nations with an online gambling industry.

Antigua and Barbuda and the United States were unable to come to terms on appropriate compensation in their initial dispute and it had to be decided by WTO arbitrators. The two nations seemed to be headed in that direction for negotiations on the second matter as well.

Antigua and Barbuda did ask for the matter to be settled by the arbitrators again at one point, but that is now on hold while the two nations meet once again to talk.

Cort has been meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab during the talks and has also had the opportunity to meet with high-ranking officials in the Justice, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security and State departments.

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