APNewsBreak: Antigua to seek sanctions against US

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm •  Published: December 9, 2012
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"We have basically been driven over our fiscal cliff .... We feel that we really have had our backs pushed right up against the wall," said Lovell, referring to the impact of the U.S. online betting ban.

Antigua in 2003 initiated WTO dispute proceedings against U.S. federal and state laws barring foreign participation in U.S. Internet gambling markets. The WTO, in rulings in 2004 and 2005, found that the U.S. had violated its 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services, or GATS, which the WTO says allows Internet gambling.

The WTO has upheld rulings striking down the U.S. ban. The trade body said Washington was violating trade law by targeting online gambling without equal application of the rules to American operators offering remote betting on horse and dog racing.

But in 2006, Washington stopped U.S. banks and credit card companies from processing payments to online gambling businesses outside the country. The decision closed off the most lucrative region in a growing market worth about $15.5 billion at the time. About half of the world's online gamblers are based in the U.S.

Washington also responded to its legal defeat by announcing it would take the unprecedented step of revising the conditions under which it signed the GATS. That allowed a number of countries to seek compensation under a separate process. But the U.S. has failed to do so with Antigua.

As a result, Antigua gained the right to penalize U.S. services and intellectual property until Washington either permits Americans to gamble over foreign-based sites or eliminates exceptions for off-track betting on horses, including over the Internet.

Lovell said the U.S. Trade Representative's office recently rejected efforts to have the trade dispute referred to the WTO for arbitration, prompting the islands to pursue countermeasures.

He said Antigua has also been following with interest U.S. complaints on pirating and fake goods in China and its threats to take the Asian giant to the WTO's dispute resolution board.

"We believe that the same rules that apply to big countries should be the same rules that apply to small countries. It is very difficult for us to sit back and hear the United States speak about unfair trade practices that are alleged against China, and at the same time ... we've played by the rules, we've done everything that we were required to do, we were successful - and yet we have not been able to arrive at a proper conclusion to this matter," Lovell said.

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David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd