Last week Antigua and Barbuda’s lawyer, Mark Mendel, predicted that the US could offer a settlement by this Monday, ending what has become a monstrous legal battle that began after the passage of the UIGEA legislation in 2006. Well, today is Tuesday and the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) office remains shrouded in silence.
Antigua has already received trade compensations from the WTO amounting to $21 million a year. The specific details of the agreement have made it so that Antigua and Barbuda can legally pirate up to $21 million a year in intellectually property. This settlement is only a fraction of the amount of money that the tiny Caribbean island nation has lost since they were forced out of the US Internet gambling sector.
The Antigua Sun, the national newspaper, has been closely following every little twist and turn of this ongoing drama – Internet gambling is a huge sector in Antigua and this issue has affected the lives of many Antiguans. They reported this morning that Antigua received no word from the USTR: neither Mark Mendel nor did the local Directorate of Gaming have received a message of any kind.
This most recent missed deadline has left many on the island with a feeling of resignation. They have been fighting tooth and nail over this issue and have certainly been more than a mere thorn in the US’ side. Antigua and Barbuda, a nation that most people have never even heard of before, have managed to push the world’s most powerful country into a corner. Of course, once pushed into a corner the US can prove to be a dangerous wild animal that becomes difficult to handle.. Antigua’s officials at this point are stuck with continuing their “wait and see” approach.
Mendel has made his point, with utmost clarity, that any settlement offered by the United States would be expected to address the US’ non-compliance with the WTO ruling on non-discriminatory US access for Internet gaming operators as well as Antigua and Barbuda’s claim for compensation following the unilateral US withdrawal of its commitment to provide market access as written in the WTO General Agreement on Trade and Services.
At this point Antigua does not have many options. They have already filed for arbitration with the WTO alongside Costa Rica. The European Union is in the middle of a study to determine whether or not they should file for arbitration through the WTO against the United States for the same reasons as the former countries. If the EU does decide to file for arbitration, Antigua’s chip stack will certainly double but in the meantime is seems like they are a little bit short stacked.