Antigua set to reject settlement offer from the US in WTO dispute

It may have been offered after the World Trade Organization deadline, but it appears that the United States has at last proposed a settlement in its protracted WTO dispute with the Antigua and Barbuda government.

The Antigua Sun newspaper is currently reporting that the Caribbean island government is soon to make a statement „…that a proposal for the resolution of the trade dispute received from the U.S. last week has not been met favourably.“ Apparently the American offer was discussed in Cabinet but not well received.

Minister of Finance and the Economy Errol Cort told the newspaper that he had put a settlement proposal to US Trade Representative Ambassador Susan Schwab when he met with her in January. Antigua and Barbuda had agreed to hold off on arbitration proceedings at the World Trade Organization until the end of March, allowing time for the proposal to be considered and a counterproposal made.

Although cautious, the minister hinted at an impending joint statement with the USTR that could be forthcoming this week, failing which the Antigua government would issue its own statement independently. Minister Cort said: „However, the US and ourselves are seeking to agree on the press statement that would follow the decisions on both sides, in terms of how the matter will be handled.“

Meanwhile, the lack of a settlement on this issue by the end of March had essentially restarted the WTO dispute resolution process. In January, Antigua and Barbuda filed a notice requesting arbitration by the WTO on the country’s claim for compensation from the US, as America seeks to withdraw from its commitment to provide market access to the Internet gambling sector under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services.

Antigua and Barbuda’s legal representative, Mark Mendel, told the Antigua Sun that this process had automatically restarted at the WTO once the body was not informed at the end of March that the parties had agreed on a settlement.