A&B to go after sanctions against US

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Antigua & Barbuda will soon be back to the WTO to sanction the US for US $21 million per year, and the nation’s attorney believes the bold move will have the “desired effect.”

And that effect, according to Mark Mendel, is bringing the United States Trade Representative (USTR) – the governmental wing charged with negotiating international trade – back to the negotiation table in the on-going World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute.

“As I suspected, once we moved firmly in this direction, with resolve, it would show the Americans that we are actually serious about enforcing our rights. For quite a long time we have tried to go forward without doing this,” the Ireland-based attorney declared in an interview with OBSERVER Media.

Mendel is currently on island preparing “strategies” for Monday’s meeting. He and High Commissioner for Antigua & Barbuda in London, Dr Carl Roberts, return to Geneva on Monday to once again attempt to gain authorisation from the WTO to seek suspension of concession against the US, with respect to intellectual property rights.

In December, authorisation was denied because Antigua & Barbuda filed late.

Mendel said the US’s ears have pricked up now the nation’s right to impose sanction is assured, he said the move has made the US take Antigua & Barbuda more seriously. He noted Monday’s meeting is a “perfunctory” step, beginning the process of collecting the nation’s damages.

The WTO delegate for Antigua & Barbuda said this is evidenced by increased contact between the nations and even a meeting between representatives from the US Embassy in Barbados and Ambassador Colin Murdoch this week to discuss the matter. The attorney, however, was not present at that meeting.

Although optimistic, Mendel said he would not go as far as to say there was “movement” in the negotiation process, thus far.

“I don’t think a whole lot has changed on that front. I would guess the US would not want us to do what we are going to do on Monday and they are quite concerned about it, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they were stepping up their attempts to contact us,” the legal advisor said.

In 2003, Antigua & Barbuda launched a complaint with the World Trade Organisation, after the US put restrictions on its citizens’ ability to place international online gambling bets. The nation estimates the damage at US $1 billion.

In 2007, the WTO ruled in Antigua & Barbuda’s favour, urging the US to either remove unfavourable laws from its books or allow Antigua & Barbuda to go after an “innocent bystander” industry – in this case the US intellectual property industry to the tune of US $21 million per year.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)