Antigua Signals Possible Resolution to WTO Gambling Dispute
Antiguan officials indicated last week that there may finally be hope for resolving a long-running dispute over Internet gambling that the Caribbean island nation has escalated in recent months with threats of an unprecedented retaliation against U.S. intellectual property rights. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said a recent meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden left him feeling “more encouraged than I have before” and that the two sides have been able to “gain momentum for a final settlement.” Spencer added that he now expects ongoing negotiations with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to accelerate with the presentation of “new and innovative proposals.”
In April, Antigua asked the U.S. to make “one last effort” to resolve this dispute, which centers on a nearly decade-old World Trade Organization ruling against the U.S. ban on Internet gambling. After what it said were repeated efforts to persuade the U.S. to comply with that ruling, Antigua threatened to suspend $21 million worth of U.S. intellectual property rights, possibly by setting up a subscription Web site allowing users to download U.S. movies, music and software without having to pay royalties to the copyright holders. U.S. officials have called the plan “government-authorized piracy” and warned that it would “hurt Antigua’s own interests,” for example by serving as “a major impediment to foreign investment in the Antiguan economy, particularly in high-tech industries.” Nevertheless, Spencer’s comments suggest that the threat has brought the U.S. to the negotiating table.