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Antigua, U.S. resume online gambling talks
Despite an arbitration ruling by the World Trade Organization, the online gambling matter between Antigua and Barbuda and the United States may not be quite dead yet. Representatives from the two countries were slated to meet today to talk about the issue.
According to Caribbean360.com, Errol Cort, Antigua and Barbuda's finance minister, was in the United States to meet with Susan Schwab from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative today.
"We believe this matter can be settled in an amicable way because we enjoy an excellent relationship with the United States," Cort said in the Caribbean360 article. "I am therefore hopeful (we can) come to some broad understanding in terms of settlement."
With the WTO decision, Antigua and Barbuda has already been given permission to target U.S. services, copyrights and trademarks in retaliation for the United State's ban on online gambling. However, Antigua and Barbuda had asked for $3.4 billion in compensation and was only allowed to impose $21 million in annual trade sanctions.
That figure was arrived at after the WTO arbitration panel was unsatisfied with how both Antigua and the United States had calculated what they thought were fair compensation numbers.
Antigua had based its figure on the online gambling industry as a whole, while the United States said only horse race betting should be considered, according to an article in the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development's weekly trade digest, Bridges.
The arbitration panel had to come up with its own calculations instead. It decided the measurement of lost exports should reflect the "most likely scenario of compliance" by the United States, and that scenario would mostly likely have been the removal of restrictions on horse race bets alone.
Factoring in calculations suggesting Antigua's market share in the United States would have diminished even in the absence of restriction due to increased competition elsewhere, the arbitration panel came up with $21 million for compensation.
Despite disappointment at a figure 100 times less than what Antigua and Barbuda asked for, Mark Mendel, Antigua and Barbuda's lead counsel in the case, said in the Bridges article that the cross retaliation the WTO is allowing is still a potent weapon.
Antigua and Barbuda will be able to suspend intellectual property rights on products from the United States. That means it could ignore copyrights and patents on movies, music, software and more in order to regain the money it is losing not being able to offer online gambling to U.S. customers.
Mendel suggested in the Bridges article that the decision to suspend intellectual property rights still lacks some clarity though.
It is unclear what would happen if intellectual property rights are suspended by Antigua and Barbuda and then the products are exported. A trade lawyer also told the New York Times that putting a monetary value on different kinds of intellectual property could also be complicated.
While arbitrator decisions are not subject to appeal under WTO rules, there are other avenues Antigua and Barbuda can use to continue fighting for online gambling rights in the United States or for better compensation.
Antigua's negotiations for compensation from the United States for altering its agreement with the WTO to exclude online gambling are still ongoing and probably heading to arbitration as well, according to Mendel.
Antigua could ask the panel to consider the online gambling sector in its entirety when deciding compensation, which would in effect ask them to overturn the reasoning that led the first arbitration panel to look only at horseracing revenues.
Mendel also told Bridges there are other potential options for Antigua and Barbuda through the WTO, but he stressed that Antigua's goal of a serious negotiation with the United States to come up with a settlement remains.
One such settlement he suggest to Bridges could involve a time-limited period of the United States cooperating with the Antiguan online gambling industry to soothe fears about the potential effects of overseas Internet gambling on public morals.