Antigua came under fire once again this week, adding another chapter to the ongoing Antigua-US WTO dispute that arose after the United States Congress passed an illegal accord banning all forms of online gambling in America. The most recent challenge to Antigua has come from the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). They claim that Antigua and Barbados are in violation of international copyright treaty if these countries continue to move forward with their WTO-approved sanctions against the US.

Dr. Errol Cort, the Antiguan Minister of Finance and the Economy, has flat out rejected the opinions of the WIPO. Earlier this week he responded to the local media regarding comments made by Jorgen Blomqvist, the director of the Copyright Law Division of the WIPO. Blomqvist, who is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of the Literary and Artistic Works, has said that Antigua and Barbados are legally obligated to protect copyrights despite the fact that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has already approved the sanctions.

Cort was recorded as saying that, although he has not researched the finer technical details of the recent WIPO decision, he rejects the idea that the WTO-approved sanction would be in breach of other international treaties.

“I would have a big difficulty accepting what is being suggested, because if that is so, it puts a nonsense to the whole World Trade Organization and the rulings and sanctions. It just brings the whole thing into disrepute. So I don’t accept that,” he said.

“It seems to me that what we would be saying at the World Trade Organization is, notwithstanding whatever treaties you may have entered into, rulings of the WTO would have to be viewed in the context of an agreement to suspend these treaty obligations and to give supremacy to the ruling of the WTO. Otherwise it would be a useless exercise to talk about going to the WTO to get some ruling and then you can’t lawfully implement the ruling. So, I don’t accept that particular view.”

This battle has been going on for many months and at this point it seems as if there is no end in sight. After the United States passed the anti-gambling legislation Antigua immediately appealed to the WTO because their flight from the American online gambling market meant a loss of millions of dollars a year. The WTO ruled in favor of Antigua and made the US government pay $500,000 in damages to the Antiguan government for disruptions in their commerce. They also allowed Antigua to suspend its obligations to the US in respect to copyright law, which is at the root of the most current drama.

Now, according to Music2.0 Antigua has the right to “disregard its WTO obligations to the US in respect of copyrights, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property including industrial designs, patents and protection of undisclosed information up to the value of $21 million.” The decision unfortunately affects parties who have absolutely nothing to do with poker or Antigua.

Whether or not the WIPO ruling will override the WTO-approved sanctions is still up in the air. It is these kinds of questions that are becoming more and more difficult to answer in the modern world. Who truly has the final say in supranational issues such as this? Is it each individual country, the WTO, the WIPO or the companies who run these wealthy businesses? The answer is one of the biggest issues that are being debated in the international- law community; hopefully they will find a resolution to the US-Antigua dispute.

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