Last month Tight Poker published an article discussing freelance journalist Ed Brayton’s quest to learn the details on the recently brokered US-European Union deal and how he was denied access to information compensation package. US Trade Representatives informed Brayton that the details of the package were, “…properly classified in the interest of national security pursuant to the Executive order 12958.” Brayton’s diligence has finally paid off as the extra attention has garnered the interest of US politicians.
This week Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio requested that the US Trade Representative (USTR) come clean on the trade concessions made to the EU, Japan and Canada. The greatest concern stems from the fact that this trade was done without approval or consultation from Congress and apparently is so important that it merits the protection of the executive office.
DeFazio’s inquiry raises the possibility that Congress may seek to void the new market access commitments that were granted by the USTR to the European Union. The compensation was originally struck because the controversial UIGEA legislation, which has received a great deal of media attention as of late, was found to be illegal by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
DeFazio stated in his letter that, “There is a concern that the USTR may have been ambitious in its use of a 'national security' classification to avoid any publicity of which new business sectors are to be subject to the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) treaty.”
Nao Matsukata, formerly the Director of Policy Planning for USTR Robert Zoellick and now a Senior Advisor for Alston & Bird, LLP said, “The issue will be whether the USTR abused its authority by granting new market access to the EU without first securing the consent of the trade committees in Congress. Ultimately, this could invalidate the deal with the EU and cause various WTO Members to revisit the issue of fair compensation from the United States.”
The Congressman from Oregon could not have mounted this attack at a better time. Just this week the European Union, under pressure from EU gambling companies who where were badly hit by the discriminatory US Internet gambling legislation, began a probe that will determine whether or not the EU will launch a series of WTO arbitrated proceedings against the US.
A formal complaint was filed by the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) and it was this complaint that pushed the EU to launch the most recent probe. The RGA represents over thirty of the most influential online gaming firms in the world and so their complaints have not been taken lightly.
Every day the pressure mounts against the United States government to reform, if not completely ban, the discriminatory UIGEA. Jeffrey Sandman, spokesperson for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative said: "Congress should have been consulted before the US agreed to these trade concessions. We hope that Mr. DeFazio's colleagues will join him in demanding more transparency, communication, and consultation from the Administration on Internet gambling. A non-discriminatory market for Internet gambling in the United States will restore integrity to the international trading system."