Frank, Conyers team up in letter to Trade Rep

capital hill

Last week's Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss online gambling has had one positive result so far. The Judiciary Committee chairman joined with Rep. Barney Frank, House Financial Services Committee chairman, to send a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative criticizing how the nation has handled the World Trade Organization case against it.

According to a Reuters report, the Rep. John Conyers Jr. and Frank are both pressuring the U.S. Trade Representative to change how the online gambling case with the WTO is being handled.

"Your agency has chosen not to consult with Congress, but instead to take what we view as a drastic step that which could have significant consequences for the whole WTO system," the two say in a letter to the Trade Rep. Susan Schwab, which was also signed by six other lawmakers.

The WTO has ruled more than once that the United States is violating international trade rules with its online gambling ban. The United States had continued to appeal and fight the ruling up until a few months ago, when it finally admitted it was in violation.

However, instead of moving to change its own legislation to remove the ban, the U.S. is seeking to change the agreement it has with the WTO to exempt online gambling from it.

Not only can Antigua and Barbuda, which filed the initial online gambling complaint with the WTO, now ask for compensation for the violation, the United States opened itself up for other countries to make compensation claims against it.

So far Antigua and Barbuda has requested compensation of $3.4 billion and the European Union could seek as much as $100 billion.

Conyers, Frank and the others who signed the letter would like to see the Bush administration explore legislation to roll back a U.S. ban on Internet gambling instead of having to pay out compensation.

"Continuing with the same old failed policies for the sake of feel-good politics doesn't make sense," Conyers says in the Reuters article.

In the letter to Schwab, the lawmakers say they fear compensation will be expensive to the U.S. economy.

"However, we are perhaps more concerned about what this withdrawal says about U.S. credibility as a trading partner."

If the United States is the first to use a WTO process that allows nations to alter their initial agreements, other nations may follow suit rather than complying with WTO rulings in the future. In the letter, the lawmakers said it could encourage other countries to withdraw commitments that are inconvenient or politically difficult.

"We are writing to express our interest in considering possible legislative solution that might restore U.S. compliance with the GATS agreement without renouncing any of our commitments under the agreement," the letter says.

According to Reuters, the Bush administration has often worked with Congress in the past to comply with adverse WTO rulings.

Frank already introduced legislation this year that could bring the nation into compliance. Bill H.R. 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, seeks to legalize online gambling and set up a licensing and regulatory system for the industry in the United States.

Related Articles:

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »