US Sanctions a possibility for Antigua

Little progress made in negotiations

The Caribbean island government of Antigua and Barbuda has resurrected its threat to impose World Trade Organisation-approved sanctions on the United States as negotiations on the long-running online gambling dispute between the two nations languish.

Speaking to local reporters at a press conference this week, Antigua Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said the island government would seek to impose sanctions if Washington does not engage more positively in efforts to secure a negotiated solution to a problem on which the WTO ruled in Antigua’s favour three years ago.

Fruitless negotiations had been held since 2007, the prime minister said, but if anything the situation for online gambling companies in Antigua has only become worse.

Spencer said that he intended to seek an early meeting with US President Barack Obama in an attempt to bring an acceptable end to the situation.

"Antigua and Barbuda is concerned that the negotiations are being protracted, with no potential end in sight,” Spencer said.

“In light of the obvious unwillingness of the United States to reach a negotiated settlement that takes into account the contribution of the sector to the economic well-being of Antigua and Barbuda, we have brought the matter before the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, which has supported Antigua and Barbuda's position on this matter from the inception".

Spencer added that the Caribbean Community has a mandate to protect the interests of member nations, and said that he expected to obtain "…firm regional support to call upon the United States, once and for all, to settle this outstanding matter."

"In the absence of a resolution, the economy of Antigua and Barbuda is suffering, Spencer noted.

“There has been a dramatic decline in the sector, [a] significant increase in unemployment as a result, [and] stakeholders are suffering. Many have left our shores for other parts because of this elusive settlement.”

"Given the debilitating impact of the fiscal and economic crisis [perpetrated] on our economy and the apparent disinterest of the United States in dealing decisively with this matter, Antigua and Barbuda may have no other alternative but to signal to the WTO that we wish to impose sanctions. We are fast running out of options," Spencer concluded.

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