It seems to have taken an inordinately long time to get going, but this week at last saw officials from the United States Trade Representative's office and the European Union sitting down to discuss the way forward on the EU's complaint regarding US discriminatory approaches to Internet gambling and online gambling companies.

The EU has already confirmed that there are grounds for complaint by the Remote Gaming Association, which triggered last year's European Commission investigation of American actions against the industry and against European companies (see previous InfoPowa reports).

The EU subsequently published its findings and suggested that a negotiated resolution with the US would be the preferred course to further dispute procedures in the World Trade Organisation, which has already supported Antigua and Barbuda in its own claims against American discriminatory practices.

It is against this backdrop that the talks, which also cover other areas of trade contention, took place this week.

EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said of the preliminary meeting: "Today was not a day to resolve any problems, but rather to set out the approach we are going to take, who would do what, and to agree to keep in touch."

She explained that from the EU perspective there were four areas where "creative solutions" might profitably be discussed. These were online gambling, Irish music rights, chemical regulations and the export of US rice to the EU.

Ashton and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk agreed to tackle the issues, moving forward over the next few months in a spirit of cooperation in a quest for real solutions.

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