Antigua and Barbuda has taken the next step in its World Trade Organization (WTO) fight against the United States of America by expressing their opposition to Senator Harry Reid’s federal online poker bill. The Hill reports that the bill, which could be reintroduced during the post-election Lame Duck session, “mischaracterizes” Antigua’s long-running dispute with the U.S. and specifically favors U.S.-based firms.
The Hill cite a draft copy of the legislation as stating: “The United States never intended to include Internet gaming of any kind within the scope of its commitments under the General Agreement for Trade in Services, and therefore, no World Trade Organization Member had any competitive expectation of access to the United States Internet gaming market.”
Antigua understandably disagrees with this stance and Harold Lovell, the island’s Minister of Finance and the Economy, released a statement on Thursday, stating: “The wording of Sen. Kyl’s legislation misrepresents the facts. Given that the U.S. has been immersed in a trade dispute for the last decade with Antigua and Barbuda, the evidence is there for all to see that remote gaming was always at issue. This is nothing short of legislating historical fiction.”
Another provision in the Reid-Kyl bill would require the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to find a settlement with Antigua within 180 days after the bill passes. Otherwise the U.S. would move into arbitration with the WTO under the provision, according to Mark Mendel, the attorney that is leading Antigua’s fight.
Mendel also added that if the legislation is passed then they can “go back to the WTO and embarrass them even further”.
Antigua’s WTO fight emerging into the mainstream is down, in no small part, to the hiring of elite Washington DC based PR-firm LEVICK. The firm is known for its advocacy and public affairs campaigns with sovereign nations that are involved in complex, politically sensitive international relations and trade disputes with the US government.
By railing against the Reid bill the PR campaign is starting to bear fruit with the National Governors Association (NGA) penning a letter to congressional leaders on Thursday, in which they state their own opposition to the federal plans. In it they complain the bills’s draft “would preempt emerging state regulatory authority recently established by the U.S. Justice Department under a reinterpretation of the federal Wire Act, which could restrict state revenues derived from gaming. We oppose the draft Senate legislation in its current form as an unnecessary preemption of state authority”.
The NGA could be the first of many to start reiterating their opposition to this bill and if the bill ends up not passing it will only go to strengthen Antigua’s hand in its WTO fight against the U.S.A. Even if it does pass, Mendel has already reiterated that they’ll be going back to the WTO to embarrass them even further. As the Boss Man would say this one was “born to run”.