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Anne Lindner

WTO Panel to Arbitrate Antigua/US Dispute

23 July 2003

The World Trade Organization's dispute settlement body will appoint a three-member panel to decide whether Antigua's complaint against the United States is valid.

Antigua and Barbuda said in March that it had filed a complaint with the WTO about the United States' stance against Internet gambling. Antigua is claiming that certain U.S. laws hampered its Internet gambling industry by making it difficult for people to pay for their online gambling activities.

Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua's chief negotiator at the WTO. He said today that Antigua and the United States have 20 days to agree on the three panel members. If they do not agree, the WTO Secretariat will appoint the panel.

"The Americans have to agree because we are in the driving seat on this," he said. "If we want an agreement within 20 days, and they can't agree within 20 days, we'll simply ask for the Secretariat to appoint three people."

Representatives for Antigua have not decided whom they would like to see on the panel, Sanders said. He also said it does not make much difference whether the panel is agreed upon by all sides or whether it is appointed by the Secretariat.

"It really doesn't matter," he said. "If we agree on a panel, there's good faith all around. So that would be the best thing, but if it doesn't happen that way and the Secretariat has to appoint a panel, that's fine with us too."

Once the panel is finalized, it will hear the arguments from both countries and make an arbitration. Sanders said it should not take more than three months for the panel to make a decision.

Lester Bird, the prime minister of Antigua, has said that U.S. actions to ban online gambling have cost Antigua's economy around $30 million.

In its request for consultation that was submitted to the WTO, Antigua stated that the United States is violating the General Agreement on Trade in Services because it has affected the movement of cross-borer services--Internet gambling--between itself and Antigua.

In April, Sanders told Interactive Gaming News that he would like simply to see the United States follow WTO rules.

"The outcome that we would like to see is that the United States will recognize that the manner in which they've been handling this thing is inconsistent with the World Trade Organization rules and commitments which they themselves have made under World Trade Organization rules and will no longer try to implement laws which they are passing in contravention of those rules," he said.

WTO Panel to Arbitrate Antigua/US Dispute is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner