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Cort: WTO victory clearly ours

Monday April 11 2005

by Eucelia Hill

It is just "a matter of time" before the US will have to bow to international pressures concerning its position on ruling of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organisation on Internet gaming.

This was the word from Minister of Finance and the Economy Dr. Errol Cort in an interview with the SUN yesterday. He indicated that the US, despite its interpretation of the recent ruling, would be forced to liberalise its Internet gaming industry due to pressures from other developed countries and based on the findings of the appellate body.

Dr. Cort was rebutting claims by the US Trade Representative (USTR) who stated that the ruling of the WTO Appellate body was "a win in their favour" and required little change in US gaming laws.

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According to a release from the US Trade Representative, "US Internet Gaming Restrictions can stand as US wins key issues in WTO dispute" dated 7th April, Acting US Trade Representative Peter F. Allgeier stated, "This win confirms what we knew from the start - WTO members are entitled to maintain restrictions on Internet gambling"

The USTR interpretation of the ruling also maintains that the US would only need to "clarify one narrow issue concerning Internet gambling on horse racing. USTR will be exploring possible avenues for addressing this finding. USTR will not ask Congress to weaken US restriction on internet gambling."

Despite this view, Dr. Cort maintained that the ruling was Antigua & Barbuda's win because the key issue of the US" discriminatory practices against other countries was clearly established.

Reading the last paragraph of the Findings and Conclusion of the ruling, which clearly stated, "The Appellate Body recommends that the Dispute Settlement Body request the US to bring its measures into conformity with its obligations under that agreement," Dr. Cort explained that the main plank of the US" argument was that it never agreed to trade gambling services as part of the GATS and as a result, could manage it as it saw fit. This it did through though discriminatory laws such as the Wire Act, Illegal Gambling Business Act and the Travel Act.

"The Appellate Body found otherwise. Gaming was offered as a trading commodity. So this is a major victory for Antigua because they ruled that gaming cannot be discriminated against," Dr. Cort said.

Another plank of the US argument stated that the US" had right to restrict the gaming industry on moralistic grounds.

To this Dr. Cort said, "If they are saying that gambling is a bad thing based on moralistic arguments, therefore they cannot allow their own people to engage in domestic gambling at the disadvantage of non-US countries."

"No one is saying that the US cannot restrict gaming, but it cannot be restricted in a discriminatory manner. As Mark Mendel said, the ruling gives the US a second option: if they want to maintain their present position, the US has to make gaming illegal in their own country.

"The question is will the US legislate against its own people. Absolutely not and not allowing Antigua & Barbuda access to their market is discriminatory," he said.

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