Antigua on Friday blasted the United States over what the tiny
Caribbean island state said were moves to ensure it could not build up
its fragile economy through revenues from Internet gambling services.
Criticising proposed U.S. laws to outlaw the $12 billion online
gambling industry, Antiguan ambassador to the World Trade Organization
John Ashe suggested Washington felt it could act with impunity because
his country did not have the economic weight to retaliate.
"We believe the time has come for the United States to demonstrate ...
whether the WTO agreements are to work for us all equally, or whether
the WTO is indeed a 'one-way street' for the large economies to
further enrich themselves at the expense of lesser ones," Ashe told
diplomats at a session of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). "The
United States basically says it will do as it pleases; that the rest
of the world cannot stop it and that it will ruin any of us who try to
get fair deals."
Antigua, which has a population of 67,000 with few natural resources
and a declining tourist industry, has since the late 1990s sought to
build up an Internet gambling industry to provide work for its young
The DSB was discussing developments in the squabble, first brought to
the WTO by Antigua in 2003. A WTO panel and later appeals judges
handed down rulings in 2004 and 2005 which both sides have claimed as
vindicating their case.
The United States, which before Ashe spoke told the DSB it was still
in consultation with Congress on the way ahead, bars the placing of
bets across state lines by electronic means, arguing that the ban is
legal under WTO rules.
U.S. officials say they are working to make clear that domestic
gambling operations in the country are subject to exactly the same
rules as foreign ones, and that there is no discrimination against
In their ruling last year, judges on the WTO's Appellate Body said
that there did appear to be U.S. discrimination between foreign and
local operators in betting on horse racing.
The new legislative proposals were intended to clear that up,
according to U.S. officials. But Ashe argued on Friday that they were
both "as directly contrary to the DSB recommendations and rulings as
could possibly be imagined."
He said they would entrench a situation where, in violation of WTO
agreements, Antigua was barred from providing services to U.S. consum-
ers that could be offered by domestic operators.
Diplomats said that the case was likely to be returned to the original
panel next month when the time period runs out for the United States
to come into line with the original rulings. The panel will have to
decide if it has in fact done so.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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