Lawyer expects WTO ruling by end of month


Mark Mendel, an attorney representing Antigua and Barbuda in its World Trade Organization dispute against the United States over online gambling, told the Antigua Sun this week the arbitration panel ruling in the matter is scheduled to be delivered Nov. 30.

Antigua and Barbuda had filed a $3.4 billion compensation claim with the WTO after the United States once again was found to be in violation of trade rules because of its online gambling ban. The U.S. government countered with a $500,000 offer instead.

The two nations were unable to settle the matter themselves, and the compensation claim went to an arbitration panel to decide.

When the ruling comes out, it will state how large a sanction Antigua and Barbuda can impose on the United States. It will also determine whether the island nation will be allowed to gain that compensation through the suspension of U.S. intellectual property rights.

Mendel told the Antigua Sun Monday that he feels confident that the arbitration process is going well for Antigua and Barbuda.

"We are in very good shape," he is quoted as saying. "This arbitration is proceeding nicely, and we've done a very good job."

Officials from the United States have said they believe Antigua and Barbuda's claim to be considerably too high, and that's why it countered with $500,000. They consider that sum to be more in line with Antigua's economic figures.

However, Mendel said that the online gaming sector, which is the part of its economy that is being affected by the laws in the United States, isn't required to report annual profits in Antigua and Barbuda, so the nation's annual economic figures don't reflect that industry.

Even after the arbitration panel releases a decision in the matter, Antigua and Barbuda will take its time figuring out precisely what it is going to do. Mendel told the Sun the government will probably consult with the online gaming industry there to get its input before proceeding.

If it is granted the ability to suspend U.S. intellectual property rights, Antigua and Barbuda could ignore copyrights on movies, music, software and more to get the compensation it is owed.

The United States is also still in talks with various other bodies, including the European Union, to settle compensation claims from them as well.

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