The on-again, off-again talks between the United States and Antigua & Barbuda, regarding their impasse over the offering of online-gambling services to American residents, is undergoing another round of face-to-face discussions yesterday and today.
This time a US delegation led by United States Trade Representative John Veroneau has visited the island nation for talks that began yesterday and will conclude today. Veroneau's six-member, high-level delegation has been meeting with Antigua's Minister of Finance. Dr. Errol Cort, Antigua's ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Dr. John Ashe, and other high-ranking Antiguan officials.
The discussions center on the United States' refusal to comply with a World Trade Organization affirming Antigua's right to offer online-gambling services to American residents, as outlined in the GATS (General Agreement on Tariffs and Services) pact signed by the two countries and many others during WTO trade negotiations in the '90s. After losing repeated decisions in the WTO appeals process, the US abandoned its efforts and announced a unilateral withdrawal from that sector of the WTO pact, thereby endangering the WTO's viability as an international trade referee. The US move left Antigua no choice but to attempt to find other was to collect the annual $21 million judgment the country was awarded for just one narrow slice of its online services – that connected to online horseracing wagering – and to attempt to continue negotiations with the US in that and other matters. Those negotiations have been at a virtual impasse ever since the unilateral US withdrawal.
In an Antigua Sun piece, Dr. Cort remarked that it was too soon to comment on any settlement until this current round of talks has concluded. But, added Cort, "But, I think it is a positive sign that a very high-level US delegation is visiting Antigua and Barbuda to engage in these talks."