Antigua seeks settlement in online gaming dispute

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Alphonso Browne addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.
Associated Press / Kevin Hagen

Stating that 12 years is too long for the United States to abide by a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling favoring Antigua and Barbuda on online gaming, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minster Gaston Browne has reiterated his call on Washington to “respect the decision of the WTO and settle its obligations soonest.”

“Our small island states could be forgiven for their belief that the cards are being deliberately stacked against them,” said Browne Friday evening in his address to the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Debate. “No evidence is available to contend otherwise.

“In this connection, my government is obliged, once again, to draw to the attention of this Assembly, that 15 years ago, my country won an arbitration against the United States in a trade dispute at the World Trade Organization,” he added. “The matter was appealed twice and twice the Arbitral award was given in Antigua and Barbuda’s favor. The final award was made 12 years ago.”

The prime minister said the WTO gave Antigua and Barbuda the right to sell US copyright material on an annual basis to recover the full costs of its trade losses.

But Browne said Antigua and Barbuda decided not to do so but to negotiate with the US government, since the US would deprive US copyright holders of “deserved income from their intellectual property through no fault of theirs.”

“But advantage has been taken of our forbearance and our magnanimity,” he said, adding that, despite the WTO, “my small country has not been able to bring the representatives of the United States to the table to settle this arbitration award.

“The arbitral award due to us has been ignored while the perennial trade surplus that the United States enjoys with my little country has exceeded $3.53 billion dollars in the 12 years since 2007,” he continued. “This, too, is unfair, unjust and unconscionable.

“How many times must we come here and ask the United States to settle?” he asked rhetorically. “We want justice. “Once again, we urge the United States to respect the decision of the WTO and settle its obligations soonest. Twelve years is too long.”

The prime minister said Antigua and Barbuda cannot forego legally awarded recompense for the trade losses it has suffered by US action.

“We are not afraid of your might,” he declared. “We are standing on principle. Let me make it clear, we, too, have a duty of care to our people. Just as much as you are protecting your interest, we must also protect our national interest.

“The last time I checked, we live in a democratic world,” Browne added. “So those who want to take punitive action against us for talking up for our rights can do so. We will stand in any forum and defend the interest of Antigua and Barbuda.”

The Antiguan leader said his government is also “deeply concerned” about the trade contention between the United States and the Peoples Republic of China, stating that trade wars “invariably push-up the cost of living for peoples across the world, especially the poor and vulnerable.”

He said they ultimately cause the entire global economy to suffer.

“We are already in that spiral,” he said. “Confrontation instead of dialogue and cooperation is exacerbating risks, eroding confidence and weakening the prospect of global economic growth.

“There will be no winners if this continues; only losers,” he added.

Unfortunately, among the hardest hit will be small island developing states with their open and vulnerable economies, Browne said.

“There we go again, small developing nations suffering from the hands of the mighty,” he said.

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