Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, has warned the US negotiating team handling the online gambling dispute between the pair that they have one last chance to resolve their dispute before he implements copyright sanctions.
The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, has told the Antigua Observer that they are preparing to make a final ‘counter offer’ to the US Trade Representatives in their decade-long World Trade Organisation (WTO) gambling dispute.
Antigua & Barbuda is a collection of Caribbean islands with a population of 90,000 people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $1.2 billion. The United States of America has a population of 319 million people and a GDP of 16.77 trillion.
So when the pair stepped into the ring in 2003 over an online gambling dispute, it was a classic David v Goliath confrontation. The online gaming industry is the second most populous in the Caribbean Islands after tourism peaking at $90 million in 1999. Bear Stearns estimates that by the time 2003 rolled around 60% of this income was coming from US-based citizens.
In 2003, on the advice of legal eagle, Mark Mendel, the tiny nation approached the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to help them fight back against online gambling blockages introduced by the USA that they believed contravened the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
The WTO’s investigation and subsequent decision landed on the side of Antigua & Barbuda with the WTO giving the Caribbean Island the opportunity to violate US copyrights on such things as movies, music, and games to the tune of $21m per annum.
The nation has never followed the advice of the WTO preferring instead to keep their sling in their pocket and try to become friends with Goliath. The two countries set up negotiating teams, and the Caribbean gang has been refusing offers from the US they deem ‘paltry’ ever since.
It seems patience as worn as thin as a gnat’s g-string. Media reports suggest Antigua & Barbuda has lost an estimated $200m since the US blocked their citizens for gambling on servers based in Antigua, and that’s the ballpark figure the PM wants to see the US negotiating team reach before he is forced to take the WTO’s advice and implement a copyright payment ban.
Browne has given the US until the time of his September visit to the United Nations (UN) to sort their act out otherwise the sling will come out of the pocket, and stones will start hurtling towards the head of the most powerful country in the world.
The PM has a real bee in his bonnet about the US using their might against a smaller nation and rightly so. If they are allowed to treat Antigua this way then what hope do other smaller countries have?
“Perhaps, they consider us a nuisance?” Browne told The Observer before accepting the ‘counter offer’ is their last option after diplomatic options have thus far failed to reach a satisfactory solution for the Caribbean island.