Antigua and Barbuda’s lead negotiator, Sir Ronald Sanders, made the statement as he addressed the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) late last week.
Sir Ronald told the DSB, comprising over 100 countries, that “it continues to be most unfortunate that, despite 14 long years of deprivation, Antigua and Barbuda has to appear before this body, year after year, to report that the United States has not seen it possible to offer fair and equitable terms to my small country for the significant losses in trade revenues that it has suffered as a result of US violation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)”.
He also rejected a US submission that it had offered Antigua “a broad range of useful suggestions to settle this dispute in November 2013” but that the government ignored it “before finally indicating that it was not acceptable”.
Sir Ronald pointed out that successive Antigua and Barbuda governments had refused the offer because it did not add up to two million US dollars when the trade losses to the country in the matter totalled well over US$200 million.
The envoy told the DSB that when “the US makes a fair, equitable and just offer to Antigua and Barbuda for the extreme harm done to our economy” Antigua will release the US from its legal obligation” consistent with the rules of the WTO.
Sir Ronald said that over the 14 years of its trade losses, Antigua and Barbuda “has in no way taken any hostile or retaliatory action against the US.
He said that “the contrary is the truth”, adding that “over that same period, the US enjoyed a trade surplus with Antigua and Barbuda of two billion US dollars.
The Antigua and Barbuda diplomat also advised the WTO body of the extreme financial difficulties that his government now faces to rebuild the sister island of Barbuda that was decimated by Hurricane Irma and to maintain residents of Barbuda who had to be evacuated to Antigua.
“There would be no better time than now, for the United States to settle this long-running issue, which mars an otherwise friendly relationship between our two countries that has existed for generations,” he said,
Antigua and Barbuda has criticised the United States since 1998 of breaching its commitments to members of the WTO under the GATS by enacting laws that prevented foreign-based operators from offering gambling and betting services to its citizens.
In 2005, the WTO ruled that Washington had violated international trade agreements by prohibiting operation of offshore Internet gambling sites. Antigua claimed that it lost US$3.4 billion a year due to the US action, but the WTO awarded the island US$21 million.
But in its final ruling, the Geneva-based WTO allowed Antigua and Barbuda to suspend certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights.
In September 2014, the Browne administration said that it was seeking US$100 million to settle the dispute, admitting that while the figure represents a reduction on what St John’s had originally been demanding, it is negotiable and could be a mixture of cash and kind.
- Countries: Antigua_Barbuda