Antigua’s longstanding online gambling trade dispute with the United States appears headed for a resolution thanks to the dedication of Antigua’s new prime minister Gaston Browne (pictured left). On Tuesday, the Antiguan government revealed that Browne had held bilateral talks with US Trade Representative Michael Froman (pictured right) at the United Nations Mission of Antigua and Barbuda on Friday (26) in a bid to breathe new life into the stalled negotiations meant to resolve the dispute.
The meeting came one day after Browne dedicated much of his first address to the UN General Assembly to the subject of Antigua’s dispute with the US, framing it as a litmus test for whether global bodies like the UN and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are serious about defending the rights of smaller nations and holding more powerful nations to a uniform standard of justice and fair play.
Browne, who was joined in the USTR talks by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Charles Fernandez and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Colin Murdoch, said he was “encouraged” by the fact that he was able to meet with Froman so quickly after assuming office just three months ago. Browne said both sides had agreed to assemble new teams to further the discussion, with Antigua’s team to be named within the week. The two sides are expected to resume talks in the coming weeks and Browne believes the face-to-face dialogue “should facilitate decision-making on policy matters.”
Antigua has been seeking a resolution to the dispute ever since its licensed online gambling operators were denied access to US customers by US authorities. In 2006, the WTO upheld Antigua’s trade complaint, ruling that the US couldn’t block Antigua-based online gambling operators on the grounds of protecting consumers while simultaneously permitting US horseracing operators to accept online wagers. The WTO ordered the US to pay Antigua an annual $21m until the dispute was resolved but the US has yet to pay Antigua a dime. Three weeks ago, Antigua said it had made a “significant concession” to secure a fair resolution to the dispute and fired the attorney who had been assisting Antigua in order to continue negotiations “on a bilateral basis.”