Antigua not letting US ‘off the hook’ in WTO case

Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders.
Associated Press / John Stillwell, pool

The Antigua and Barbuda government has told the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it would not let the United States “off the hook” for its internationally-binding obligation to allow internet gaming into the country until fair compensation is paid for the 14 years of damage done to the Antigua and Barbuda economy.

The statement was made at the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organization in Geneva by Antigua and Barbuda’s lead negotiator on the matter, Sir Ronald Sanders, according to an Antigua and Barbuda Government statement.

The Antigua and Barbuda representative told the DSB, comprising over 100 countries, that “it continues to be most unfortunate that, despite 14 long years of deprivation, Antigua and Barbuda has to appear before this body, year after year, to report that the United States has not seen it possible to offer fair and equitable terms to my small country for the significant losses in trade revenues that it has suffered as a result of US violation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).”

Sanders also rejected a United States submission that it had offered Antigua “a broad range of useful suggestions to settle this dispute in November 2013” but that the government ignored it “before finally indicating that it was not acceptable.”

Sanders pointed out that successive governments of Antigua and Barbuda had refused the offer because it did not add up to US$2 million when the trade losses to the country in the matter totaled well over US$200 million.

The envoy told the DSB that when “the United States makes a fair, equitable and just offer to Antigua and Barbuda for the extreme harm done to our economy” Antigua will release the United States from its legal obligation” consistent with the rules of the WTO.

Sanders said that over the 14 years of its trade losses, Antigua and Barbuda “has in no way taken any hostile or retaliatory action against the US,” according to the statement.

He stressed that “the contrary is the truth,” adding that “over that same period, the United States enjoyed a trade surplus with little Antigua and Barbuda of U$2 billion.”

Sanders also advised the WTO body of the extreme financial difficulties that his government now faces to rebuild the sister island of Barbuda that was decimated by Hurricane Irma and to maintain residents of Barbuda who had to be evacuated to Antigua.

“There would be no better time than now, for the United States to settle this long-running issue, which mars an otherwise friendly relationship between our two countries that has existed for generations,” Sanders said.

Besides Sanders, the Antigua and Barbuda delegation included Joy Marie King, international trade officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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