Antigua urges Non-Aligned Movement nations to support WTO fight with US

antigua-non-aligned-movement-gaston-browne-wto-gamblingAntigua’s leader is seeking assistance from other nations to resolve the country’s protracted battle with the United States over online gambling rights.

This weekend saw Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne (pictured) travel to Venezuela to attend a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a group of 120 countries – many of them states in the developing world – not formally aligned with or against a major power bloc.

Caribbean360 quoted Browne urging NAM member states to offer Antigua “active solidarity” in bringing an end to the country’s 13-year World Trade Organization fight with the US over Antigua’s right to access the US online gambling market.

In 2003, Antigua launched a WTO claim over America’s refusal to allow Antigua-licensed online operators to access the US market. In 2007, the WTO awarded Antigua an annual $21m in damages, but the US has so far refused to pay a single penny of this now over $200m tab.

Browne described his country’s David v. Goliath trade war with the US as a test case of whether “small and micro-states can get justice when powerful nations refuse to cooperate.” Under normal circumstances, Browne would be content to keep the dispute a bilateral matter, but his hand had been forced because “something is broken, and I call on all of us to fix it.”

Browne singled out NAM members who are also members of the G20 – including India, Indonesia and South Africa – to use their position to lobby for the interests of smaller nations left “defenseless in a world where only the powerful rule.”

Browne referenced America’s “recalcitrance” toward achieving a mutually satisfactory resolution to the dispute, describing the US Trade Representative’s “insubstantial offers that could not seriously be considered as a basis for a settlement.”

The WTO has offered Antigua a sharp stick with which to prod the USTR out of its apparent slumber, namely, the right to collect that unpaid $200m-plus tab by offering royalty-free digital downloads of US intellectual property (music, films, TV shows, books, etc.)

To date, Antigua has been reluctant to use this digital nuclear option but Browne told NAM delegates that his government had “reached such a level of frustration” that it was now “contemplating activating the remedy given to us by the WTO to remedy the wrong that has been done to us.”

Browne underscored the principles that could lead Antigua to take this drastic step, saying his nation was “a small state, but we have rights. And right cannot be measured by might. It must be measured by justice, by fairness and by equity.” Browne challenged the NAM to “stand up for those principles upon which it was founded” because “the threat we face is real; the danger is imminent.”