New delay in gaming compensation issue

An agreement between Antigua and Barbuda and the United States (US) on compensation for America’s withdrawal from World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade obligations has faced a second delay.

According to Mark Mendel, the attorney representing Antigua and Barbuda at the WTO, there has been an agreement to extend the time-frame for resolution of negotiations between the two countries until 14 Dec. The negotiations were originally scheduled to be completed in September, but were first extended to October and now into December.

“(It) is languishing … I think they are having a difficult time not only with us but with the EC. I think its presenting them with more problems than they expected, although why they didn’t expect more problems I don’t understand,” he said.

The US is in the process of withdrawing from its obligations, under the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), to provide market access to foreign remote gambling companies. Officials from the office of the United States Trade Representative have indicated that the US expects this to bring final resolution to its conflict with Antigua and Barbuda, which has demanded market access for the companies it licenses and regulates.

An offshoot of this Article 21 process is that any interested WTO member state has the right to file claims of compensation and the US is required to reach settlements with all countries which file such claims.

The European Union, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Macao and Japan have joined Antigua and Barbuda in filing claims. Mendel said that the process is not an easy one for the US. Thus far, he said, the US has been able to conclude a deal with Australia and may have reached an agreement with Japan. The other negotiations remain outstanding.

“Really, I think everything is stalled and I’m not precisely sure where it’s going to go,” Mendel said. The arbitration ruling on a separate claim by Antigua and Barbuda for USD 3.4 billion in compensation for the non-compliance by the US with an earlier WTO ruling is scheduled to be released at the end of this month. Mendel expressed the opinion that that ruling is likely to have a major impact on the Article 21 negotiations.

“If we get a pretty sizable figure, I think the European Community will be encouraged to take even stronger lines,” he said. The EU has reportedly already attempted to make a claim valued in excess of USD 15 billion.