Antigua and Barbuda has told the World Trade Organization (WTO) that this year marks 20 years since it requested consultations with the United States regarding measures applied by central, regional, and local authorities in the US which affected the cross-border supply of gambling and betting services.
St John’s said it is also 20 years since the panel circulated its report in the dispute, and two years shy of two decades since the Appellate Body circulated its ruling on the matter following the US appeal against the panel report.
Antigua and Barbuda built up an Internet gambling industry to replace declining tourism revenues, only to find itself shut out of the world’s biggest gambling market.
St John’s took its case to the WTO in 2003 and eventually won the right to compensation of US$21 million annually after the WTO judges upheld its complaint that US laws were discriminatory.
But Washington has not paid out, and Antigua and Barbuda has estimated that it has lost millions of dollars so far.
In its latest presentation to the WTO this week, Antigua and Barbuda argued that the lack of progress with respect to compliance is a disappointing reality and further delay is not an option.
St John’s said the matter between the two countries is regarded as a test case for those WTO members seeking to determine whether the dispute settlement system can deliver practical and timely benefits for small and vulnerable economies.
“It called on the US to make every effort to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion and said it remains open to engaging with the US in whatever format to settle the dispute in a mutually satisfactory manner,” according to a report posted by the WTO on its website.
The report noted that the United States said it is disappointed that Antigua and Barbuda continues to characterize the US as not making any attempt to resolve the dispute.
Washington said much to the contrary, the United States has repeatedly tried to resolve this dispute in a way that would bring benefits to Antigua and Barbuda’s economy and to its citizens. The US said it remains ready and willing to work with Antigua and Barbuda to settle this dispute. However, such efforts must be rooted in a genuine willingness to find a solution, it added.
St Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking on behalf of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, said it remains disappointed that this dispute was initiated and has yet to be fully resolved.
It said this lack of resolution, in particular the non-compliance of the world’s largest economy in a matter involving one of the smallest WTO members, undermines the rules-based system of adjudication.
Bangladesh, South Africa, India, Nigeria (for the African Group) and China also took the floor on this matter to encourage a settlement to the dispute, the report added.
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