US and Antigua to begin negotiations again

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Antigua & Barbuda is off to the United States “in a matter of days” in an attempt to, once again, bring the years long WTO dispute to an end.

Minister of Finance, Harold Lovell, yesterday said Ambassador Collin Murdoch has been tapped to engage “officials and technicians” at the office of the United States Trade Representative – on their turf, in Washington DC.

Although the minister said the nation enters into negotiations with a spirit of compromise, Antigua & Barbuda will pull no punches when trying to “avail ourselves of any of the rights and remedies which have been offered to us.”

He added, the people of the nation “deserve” to attain “justice” in the almost 10-year-old debacle.

However, the twin-island continued its campaign, begun earlier in the month, of taking the superpower to task for what the nation feels were threats made by the US after Antigua & Barbuda went to the WTO seeking – and gaining – the right to impose sanctions against US intellectual property.

Although an Antiguan delegation did not attend the latest WTO meeting with the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in Geneva on Wednesday, a Dominican representative read a statement on behalf of the nation.

At that time, the country requested the Antigua/US dispute be placed back on the agenda “to draw attention to the fact that to date, the United States has not complied with the recommendations or rulings of the DSB” in the dispute or negotiated an “agreed compromise” in the matter.

The finance minister said he is most “pleased” about the “strong, tangible” support from regional and international partners. He said the People’s Republic of China has also read a statement to the WTO, officially supporting Antigua & Barbuda in the matter.

Lovell said, “discussions are continuing” with the US, noting a compromise in the matter is still the “preferable” course of action. However, he said no solid compromise has been reached thus far.

Government went back to the WTO in January, receiving the go ahead to infringe on US intellectual property to the tune of US $21 million a year.

Since the restrictions were placed on internet gambling, Antigua & Barbuda estimates the damage to be US $3 billion.