Antigua prime minister holds talks with US on Internet gaming dispute

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NEW YORK, United States, Tuesday September 30, 2014, CMC – Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has held talks with senior United States officials in a move aimed at ending their long standing Internet gaming dispute.

The meeting followed Browne’s criticism of Washington during his address to the United nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week.

A statement by the Antigua and Barbuda government stated Prime Minister Browne met US Trade Representative, Michael Froman, on Friday “where both men sat down to open dialogue about the stalled trade dispute and discussed practical ways in which the matter could be brought to a conclusion”.

Browne was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Charles Fernandez and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Colin Murdoch.

“Both sides agreed to put a team together to work out the details of their discussion, and PM Browne undertook to name his team within a week,” the statement said.

Prime Minister Browne later said he was “courage” that his administration has been able to secure a meeting with Ambassador Froman “so early”.

He said that the US official is a Cabinet-level officer and that “this should facilitate decision-making on policy matters”.

In his meeting with Froman, Prime Minister Browne outlined the economic losses suffered by Antigua and Barbuda as a result of US non-compliance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling, according to the statement.

It said both parties are expected to resume discussions in the coming weeks.

Earlier this month, Antigua and Barbuda said it was seeking US$100 million to settle the dispute.

Prime Minister Browne told a news conference then that while the figure represents a reduction on what St John’s had originally been demanding, it is negotiable and could be a mixture of cash and kind.

Antigua and Barbuda has submitted new proposals to Washington to end the dispute.

St. John’s has criticised the United States since 1998 of breaching its commitments to members of the WTO under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) by enacting laws that prevented foreign-based operators from offering gambling and betting services to its citizens.

In 2005, the WTO ruled that Washington had violated international trade agreements by prohibiting operation of offshore Internet gambling sites. Antigua claimed that it lost US$3.4 billion a year due to the US action, but the WTO awarded the island US$21 million.

But in its final ruling, the Geneva-based WTO has allowed Antigua and Barbuda to suspend certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights.

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