Antigua vs US

January 30th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The has warned the tiny Caribbean nation of and Barbuda not to retaliate against US restrictions on internet gambling by suspending copyrights or patents, a move that would authorise the “theft” of intellectual property like movies and music.

“The United States has urged Antigua to consider solutions that would benefit its broader economy. However, Antigua has repeatedly stymied these negotiations with certain unrealistic demands,” Nkenge Harmon, a spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative’s office, said.

The strong statement came after Antigua said it would suspend US copyrights and patents, an unusual form of retaliation, unless the United States took its demands for compensation more seriously in a ruling Antigua won at the World Trade Organisation.

“The economy of Antigua and Barbuda has been devastated by the United States government’s long campaign to prevent American consumers from gambling on-line with offshore gaming operators,” Antigua’s Finance Minister Harold Lovell said in a statement.

“We once again ask … the United States of America to act in accordance with the ’s decisions in this matter.”

Antigua, a former British colony with few natural resources, has knocked heads with the United States since the late 1990s, when it began building an Internet gambling industry to replace jobs in its declining tourist industry.

The gambling sector at its height employed more than 4000 people and was worth more than US$3.4 billion to the country’s economy, but it has shrunk to less than 500 people because of US restrictions, the Antiguan government says.

The United States said it never intended as part of its WTO commitments to allow foreign companies to offer online gambling services. In 2007, it began a formal WTO procedure to withdraw the gambling concession and reached a compensation package with all WTO members, except Antigua.

Antigua argued in a case first brought to the WTO in 2003 that US laws barring the placing of bets across states lines by electronic means violated global trade rules.

It won a partial victory in 2005 when the WTO ruled a US law allowing only domestic companies to provide online horse-race gambling services discriminated against foreign companies.

When the United States failed to change the law, the WTO in 2007 gave Antigua the right to retaliate by waiving intellectual property rights protections on some US$21 million worth of US goods annually, which was far less than the US$3.44 billion the island country requested.

The key thing here is that Antigua won in the WTO. It is hugely disappointing that the US broke the commitments it agreed to, when it joined the WTO. Australia lost the NZ case on apples access, and they have done the right thing and now allowed access. The US should have accepted the WTO ruling. By choosing not to, they owe Antigua compensation.

If the US wants countries to sign trade agreements with them, especially ones with intellectual property requirements in them, then they need to show that they will honour the commitments they agree to. Otherwise there isn’t much incentive for other countries to conclude an agreement.

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21 Responses to “Antigua vs US”

  1. Paulus (2,607 comments) says:

    Anything which does not go Americas way is UnAmerican and must be wrong.
    Therefore the WTO ruling which they lost must by nature be wrong for America.
    They are always right – get it.

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  2. metcalph (1,428 comments) says:

    Antigua turned down a compensation package that the US had reached with other WTO countries? Sounds like Antigua isn’t negotiating in good faith.

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  3. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    I can’t stand gambling – it’s a tax on stupidity. But good on A&B for proactively building a industry to support their tiny country. The US bully tactics will no-doubt be driven by their local gaming industry seeing spending go offshore and lobbying aggressively. Much like the media and entertainment industries have.

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  4. Brian Harmer (686 comments) says:

    “Australia lost the NZ case on apples access, and they have done the right thing and now allowed access.” … but not in Tasmania or South Australia, and I saw no NZ apples in any supermarkets in Victoria or Queensland in the last month …

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  5. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    This should serve as a warning over any expectations we have for a TPP agreement with the USA. Goodbye Pharmac, no access for farm products…..hello draconian copyright protection & everything that can turn a profit owned by American interests.

    We should know by now that worthwhile trade treaties with the US are a chimera.

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  6. thedavincimode (6,691 comments) says:

    Antigua turned down a compensation package that the US had reached with other WTO countries. Sounds like Antigua isn’t negotiating in good faith.

    Are you serious? US unilaterally ignores an international obligation and WTO decision and a country that simply wants the US to honour its obligations and the WTO decision isn’t acting in good faith?

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  7. metcalph (1,428 comments) says:

    Are you serious?

    Yes

    US unilaterally ignores an international obligation and WTO decision

    Whatever the US may have done, it has not ignored its international obligation. It has repudiated its obligation and sought to compensate those adversely affected by the repudiation. Repudiation is lawful under international law. By way of example, Bolivia repudiated the treaty which required it to ban cocoa leaf (it later rejoined the very same treaty with a reservation that the band should not apply to cocoa leaf).

    and a country that simply wants the US to honour its obligations and the WTO decision isn’t acting in good faith?

    Holding out for the end of a gambling ban is not acting in good faith.

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  8. Sidey (249 comments) says:

    Brian Harmer 11:24 am Says:
    “Australia lost the NZ case on apples access, and they have done the right thing and now allowed access.” … but not in Tasmania or South Australia, and I saw no NZ apples in any supermarkets in Victoria or Queensland in the last month …

    Wouldn’t this be a case of importer/retailer choice? Just because NZ won the right to export apples to Australia, doesn’t mean Coles/ Woolies etc have to stock them if they think their customers won’t buy them. The “buy SA” promotion is pretty strong in South Australia, the other states may have similar? The WTO victory may have a hollow ring to it, although in the long run, supermarkets are pretty ruthless about margin so price will the ultimate determinant.

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  9. Jim (397 comments) says:

    “Antigua turned down a compensation package that the US had reached with other WTO countries? Sounds like Antigua isn’t negotiating in good faith.”

    No, it sounds like Antigua did not accept the compensation package that the US had reached with other WTO countries. Most probably because the US reneging its WTO obigations it is of far more significance to Antigua than those other WTO countries.

    The only bad faith I can see is from the US.

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  10. metcalph (1,428 comments) says:

    No, it sounds like Antigua did not accept the compensation package that the US had reached with other WTO countries. Most probably because the US reneging its WTO obigations it is of far more significance to Antigua than those other WTO countries

    That assumes that Antigua is the only carribean country which was making money from international gambling. Something I find hard to believe.

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  11. Viking2 (11,412 comments) says:

    ahhh. Its the yanks again. quelle surpise?

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  12. kowtow (8,315 comments) says:

    trying to make the USA out to be some evil behemoth over this is more bigotry.

    These matters are highly complex .

    If you ask me the Antiguans are takin’ de piss man.Do dey really tink internet gamblin’ is anythin’ odder dan a scam,fleecin’idiots?

    An’den dey call it an industry!Dat needs protectin’ and compo?

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  13. Jim (397 comments) says:

    “That assumes that Antigua is the only carribean country which was making money from international gambling. “

    No, it only assumes that Antigua is more adversely affected than the others in the WTO dispute. The OP mentions that it once employed 4000 people. Based upon Antigua’s population (80,000) then it’s possible that 4,000 is around 10% of the workforce. That is significant.

    The third parties are “Canada; Chinese Taipei; European Communities; Japan; Mexico; China” . Doubtful it is such a big business for them. ( http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds285_e.htm )

    It is telling that the US went outside the WTO to negotiate with the other parties. Clearly divide and conquer / bad faith.

    Seems that Antigua is the only party trying to use the rules.

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  14. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    The US never does anything that is not in its interests – and they ignore agreements they have if it suits them.

    To be honest anyone who trusts them in matters like this need their head examined because the US will change tack as soon as it suits them.

    So – those who see only good in the TPP – get real.

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  15. annie (539 comments) says:

    The US has a long history of treating its obligations under trade agreements as optional, or of putting in place means by which they can be sidestepped.

    Their trade treaty requirements regarding copyright in particular have the capacity to disadvantage this country. Those of us old enough to remember the days before parallel importing of copyright material can attest to the paucity of material available for purchase. Even in the age of downloads, many are not available to our region by legitimate means. It would be back to the dark ages in terms of info availability.

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  16. berend (1,704 comments) says:

    DPF: The key thing here is that Antigua won in the WTO.

    Repeat after me: no free trade agreement with the US.

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  17. cha (3,943 comments) says:

    Has it really been been thirty years since the US invaded a small Caribbean nation.. ..

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  18. Yoza (1,808 comments) says:

    US exceptionalism is the norm. What the US says; goes. This is called the ‘democratic’ process.

    Heh, favourite comment of the day: kowtow at 1:10 pm-

    “trying to make the USA out to be some evil behemoth over this is more bigotry.

    These matters are highly complex .

    If you ask me the Antiguans are takin’ de piss man.Do dey really tink internet gamblin’ is anythin’ odder dan a scam,fleecin’idiots?

    An’den dey call it an industry!Dat needs protectin’ and compo?”

    Criticising the sheer arrogance of extraordinarily powerful white people is ‘bigotry’, yet mocking the way relatively powerless non-white people speak is acceptable. Does kowtow actually comprehend how mindlessly idiotic this makes him or her appear?

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  19. thedavincimode (6,691 comments) says:

    cha

    That was just a Clint Eastwood movie. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

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  20. Sam Buchanan (501 comments) says:

    Astounding that the US is trying to make Antigua look like the bad guys when they are simply acting in accordance with trade laws. And also astounding that it’s been ten years since the case began and the US is still trying to bully their way out of following the rules.

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  21. Sam Buchanan (501 comments) says:

    “These matters are highly complex”

    “the Antiguans are takin’ de piss man”

    So is it complex, in accordance with your first statement, or simplistic, in accordance with your second?

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