Lawmakers and EU Push for UIGEA Rollback
In a recent letter to US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, two House of Representatives Committee Chairs and six other lawmakers criticized the agency's handling of the current WTO issues relative to online gambling, stressing that the Bush administration now needed to pursue rolling back the UIGEA instead of paying costly compensation to WTO members, including the European Union.
When the US withdrew access to its online gambling market from WTO trade commitments in May, it opened itself up to compensation claims from its trading partners, estimated to be upwards of $100 billion. The lawmakers, headed by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, stressed that while the Office of the United States Trade Representative's current position would be "expensive to the U.S. economy," it had even more far-reaching consequences. The lawmakers said, "We are perhaps more concerned about what this withdrawal says about U.S. credibility as a trading partner," and that the US policy would encourage other countries to withdraw trade commitments that were "inconvenient or politically difficult."
The lawmakers' letter went on to say, "We are writing to express our interest in considering possible legislative solutions that might restore U.S. compliance with the GATS agreement without renouncing any of our commitments under that agreement."
That sentiment was echoed this week when European Trade Chief Peter Mandelson addressed the European Parliament on Tuesday. "The U.S. has so far opted for compensation to make right what is wrong. I don't think compensation does that job. What we really need is for the legislation to be put right and for foreign operators to stop being excluded and discriminated against in the way the present U.S. legislation does," Mandelson said.
Mandelson visited with U.S. Representative Barney Frank in Washington earlier this month. Mandelson said on Tuesday he was hopeful Frank's attempts to change the law would be successful.