Another round of talks between Antiguan and United States officials concluded this week with the two sides apparently no closer to resolving their World Trade Organization conflict over online gambling.
A six-member delegation from the United States, led by US Trade Representative John K. Veroneau, traveled to Antigua to continue negotiations surrounding Antigua's victory in a landmark WTO case, which saw the island nation awarded a $21 million annual judgment for just one segment of its online-gambling market, that connected to horseracing. The US, for its part, abandoned its appeal in the case after years of delays, then announced its intent to withdraw from that section of its WTO agreements. While technically losing the case, it left Antigua only two options: to attempt to continue negotiations with the United States to find a mutually acceptable settlement, or to begin production of goods otherwise protected by US intellectual-property rights, a solution outlined under the WTO's judgment.
The impasse in the latest round of talks suggests that no movement on the matter will be made by the current Bush administration. After repeatedly pushing out the WTO-authorized mediation deadlines in hopes of a settlement, Antigua's Minister of Finance, Errol Cort, optimistically projected that this round of talks would or could lead to a resolution. Instead, with the talks concluded but with no progress made, another deadline of August 1st was set. However, Cort himself admitted that it would be longer, if it all, for any settlement was reached, at least two to three months according to one prominent report.
The lack of optimism is the clearest indicator yet that the US remains firm in its plan to offer no compensation or market adjustment to Antigua, perhaps leaving the country no choice but to pursue the manufacturing of otherwise copyrighted goods, a situation Antigua, by all appearances, had hoped to avoid.