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Antigua And Barbuda Welcomes The Release Of The WTO Panel's Final Report On Its Dispute With The United States

11 April 2005

ST JOHN'S, Antigua and Barbuda -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- The twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda welcomed the release by the World Trade Organisation of the Final Report of its Panel on Antigua's dispute with the United States over the provision of Internet gambling and betting services: United States - Measures Affecting the Cross-Border Supply Of Gambling and Betting Services (WT/DS285).

In its Report, which was released at 4:00pm today, Geneva time, the WTO Panel concluded that certain US laws run contrary to that country's commitments to Antigua and Barbuda under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services. The Final Report also addresses some key WTO systemic issues, such as how a member's GATS schedule should be interpreted, the relationship between certain discrete GATS provisions and the application of Article XIV of the GATS, the "general morals" exception provision. "We are very delighted that the Panel decided in our favour," said the Honourable Dr. Errol Cort, Antigua and Barbuda's Minister of Finance and Economy, who has overall responsibility for matters pertaining to financial services. "And we are very mindful of the significant contribution to GATS jurisprudence this case has made and proud to be the impetus behind this very important decision," he added.

The long-awaited Final Report was originally expected to be released in late June of this year, but at the suggestion of Antigua and Barbuda, both parties in the dispute jointly requested the Panel to suspend the release of the Report in order to allow them to enter into negotiations aimed at an amicable resolution of the dispute. Over the course of the summer, an Antigua and Barbuda delegation met on four separate occasions with the representatives of United States Trade Representatives and other branches of the US government. Both parties also held a "high level" meeting in Antigua, but were unable to resolve the dispute.

"I am confident that my government made every effort to resolve this dispute bilaterally with the United States," said Minister Cort. "Our delegation advanced a number of innovative proposals to the United States in order to address their concerns regarding Internet gaming," he added.

"The fact that the Panel had to release its Report shows that the proposals, concessions and compromises suggested by our delegation were not accepted by the US," said the Honourable Harold Lovell, Minister of Tourism, Foreign Affairs, International Transportation and Trade. "This notwithstanding, we continue to believe that firm regulation and close international cooperation can solve all of the purported problems associated with Internet gaming identified by the United States," said Minister Lovell.

Antigua and Barbuda officials cite what they regard as an unwillingness by the relevant branches of the United States government to seriously address the outstanding issues related to the dispute, and the insistence of the United States on retaining a complete prohibition on the provision of gambling and betting services from Antigua to the United States. As evidence of this unwillingness, the officials point to the continuing attempts by the United States Congress to prevent other countries from providing gambling and betting services in competition with the extensive United States gaming market, such as the recent inclusion of provisions that would bar Internet gambling sites access to the United States financial services system by preventing the use of credit cards, wire transfers, or any other bank instruments to fund Internet gaming transactions into proposed federal "antiterrorist" legislation. The Congressional committee, which has recently approved legislation–ostensibly intended to address anti-terrorist issues raised by the United States "9/11 Commission"–had heard testimony from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation that Internet gambling is vulnerable for use in terrorist financing schemes.

Antigua and Barbuda officials were quick to observe that they have seen no signs of terrorist activities in its highly regulated Internet gaming sector. "We have never seen nor do we have any reason to believe that there is any evidence of terrorist participation in our gaming sector," said Ms. Kay MacDonald, Director of the Gaming Division of Antigua and Barbuda's Financial Services Regulatory Authority. "To allay any concerns whatsoever, we have invited the United States, in a spirit of cooperation, to work closely with us on an on-going basis to ensure that terrorist organisations are not allowed to penetrate our industry," she added.

The United States will have a limited period of time in which to decide to appeal the adverse decision in the Final Report of the WTO Panel, in the absence of which it will become final and binding. An appeal to the seven-member WTO appellate body would most likely be resolved within a three to four month period of time.

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