Lawyer remains hopeful in ongoing gaming dispute

Antigua and Barbuda’s attorney at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Mark Mendel says he does not expect December’s disappointing USD 21 million arbitrated award to affect the results of a second arbitration process between the two countries.

Late last month Antigua and Barbuda filed a notice at the WTO requesting arbitration on the issue of the US declaration that it is withdrawing from its General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) commitment that allows trade access in respect of remote gaming.

In the first arbitration process, Antigua and Barbuda’s efforts to claim USD 3.4 billion in sanctions against the US in the remote gaming trade dispute was unsuccessful, after the arbitrator limited compensation consideration to the area of horse racing and not the entire spectrum of online gambling activities.

During a recent interview with the Antigua Sun, Mendel was asked whether the factors which led to the relatively small award from the first WTO arbitration are likely to recur, prompting another award well below Antigua and Barbuda’s expectations.

“It is pretty much the opinion of WTO experts and other country delegations that limiting the damages to horse racing was completely wrong and the experts I have spoken to believe that that ruling will not be followed because it is so completely wrong,” Mendel replied.

Antigua and Barbuda was one of several countries which filed claims for compensation after the US stated this intention, but Mendel has claimed that the US had stopped efforts to negotiate on the issue in December 2007.

Costa Rica also filed for arbitration on the matter, as one of the countries with which the US must reach compensation agreements before it may proceed with its GATS withdrawal.

Mendel told the Sun that the new arbitration process is likely to take a month or two to get going and several additional months of briefings and hearings before a decision is reached.

Meanwhile, Mendel has again expressed disappointment with the approach taken by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to Internet gambling trade negotiations with Antigua and Barbuda.

“The reality is that they are just using the process as much as they can to try to extend things out and make things more difficult on us – as they are entitled to do – but we just have to be prepared for that and soldier on,” he said.