By the Caribbean Journal staff
Antigua has been granted authorization to suspend concessions it has under international law to the United States regarding copyright law.
The deal would allow the government to sell millions in US intellectual property without having to pay royalties on the transactions.
The sanctions create what some fear could become a piracy haven in Antigua, although the country said the remedy was “expressly provided for under WTO law” and “would not constitute piracy or theft of intellectual property rights.”
It would simply be a “lawful suspension of intellectual property rights, conforming to the judgment of the relevant WTO tribunal,” the government said.
The two countries have been in a dispute over online gaming for nearly 10 years.
Antigua has sought to provide an online gaming platform for users outside of Antigua, including the US, with the US working to enjoin that practice.
“The economy of Antigua and Barbuda has been devastated by the United States government’s long campaign to prevent American consumers from gambling on-line with offshore gaming operators,” Antigua Finance Minister HArold Lovell said. “We once again ask our fellow sovereign nation and WTO member, the United States of America, to act in accordance with the WTO’s decisions in this matter, before we move forward with the implementation of the sanctions authorized this day by the WTO.”
According to government data, the online gaming industry was once the country’s second-largest employer, worth more than $3.4 billion to the Antiguan economy.
“Antigua has decided to utilize its right under international law to compel treaty compliance by the United States — this decision did not come easily,” said Colin Murdoch, trade ambassador for Antigua. “After countless proposals from our government have been more or less ignored by the Office of the [US Trade Representative] – numerous decisions by the WTO declaring the United States Government’s position illegal – and failure of the United States Government to provide meaningful proposals to end the dispute, the WTO provides this remedy not to encourage illicit behavior by nations; but rather to provide them with a way to secure their legal rights as sovereign nations.”
Antigua’s government cautioned that the authorization to suspend intellectual property rights “does not require Antigua to ultimately resort to that suspension,” and that it was hopeful that the US would use the intervening period to engage the government in “more productive discussions.”