June 19th marks the next in a long line of deadlines for Antigua and Barbuda in their battle against the only remaining super power on the planet. The small twin islands challenged the US stance against online gambling in a WTO court and after a 4 year battle was declared victor. Then on May 4th, the US announced it would withdraw its commitment for gambling and betting services under Article 21 of the General Agreement on Trade in Service, saying that this will end the dispute with Antigua & Barbuda over remote gambling. For a brief history of the first half of the battle, read Can Antigua Survive US Attacks…
Commenting on the US decision to withdraw from battle, Mark Mendel, attorney for Antigua & Barbuda said “They can’t effectively withdraw the commitment until they have settled with every single country that files a complaint,” A complaint can be filed by any of the 149 members of the WTO and claim compensation against the US for damages based on their failure to provide fair trade and market access for online gambling operators. A process that could take years. The deadline to file is June 19th.
Mendel also said that while Antigua & Barbuda has been encouraging countries to file complaints, he does not yet know how many countries will actually do so noting that there have been very positive responses from countries approached. Those that decide to move forward should be expected to file their claims at the last minute, as would Antigua & Barbuda. Stressing the importance of the issue, Mendel said “I think it’s like a test of the system and whether it’s going to work for all of us or not, I still remain very confident about our case.”
Delegations from Brazil, India, China and the European Union spoke in Antigua & Barbuda’s favor at lthe WTO Dispute Settlement Body and expressed their discomfort with US attempts to circumvent or flout the processes of the international trade body.
All of which is very encouraging but it’s been my experience that delegates will look you straight in the eye and say they will support you, even make efforts to provide that support and when the time comes to stand up and be counted they’re not there. I’m sure there’s something the EU wants that the US can provide; money India could use. By not filing claims in a prompt manner, the delegations leave the door open to work a better deal, get a few more million, sweeten the pot as much as possible and then look the situation over. If they think the US coughed up enough, support for Antigua will fall to the wayside. Since the filing of claims is expected to be last minute, Antigua won’t know until the game is over and everyone has gone home that they struck out.
Antigua put up one hell of a fight but in the end I have this horrible gut feeling they will be hung out to dry by the very same people claiming to support them. I hope I’m proven wrong. I hope the EU has had enough of being the US lackey. I hope India and Brazil aren’t just mouthing platitudes. I sincerely hope Antigua and Barbuda aren’t counting too heavily on any of these countries support.