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New England states call for a new direction on trade

WTO Announces Antigua Gambling Case Settlement

The WTO settlement was announced today - Antigua gets to "cross-retaliate" by ignoring copyrights on U.S. music and films, up to $21 million a year.  Read our press release for more info, and IELP blog has a host of other reactions.

Okay, on the one hand, this is some genius political economy at work. That Antigua demanded the ability to break protectionist U.S. patents pokes holes in some of the barriers to free trade that the WTO helps enforce but which are rarely discussed in the press.
 
On the other hand, the final sum amount is only one indicator of what is at stake -- the various rulings by the WTO bodies over the years have given us a preview of how the WTO could rule on future challenges of this nature. And what this case shows is that the WTO has enormous overreach into the domestic policy space of its members, and it makes any "commitments" that member countries make to the WTO extremely costly to reverse.

The practical implications of this is truly frightening when we consider some of the urgent crises we are attempting to deal with (health care and global warming, to take a couple of examples) and the various policy options we may want to consider. There have been all too many rumblings already about how energy policies to combat global warming could be "WTO-illegal." 
 
Those who think U.S. gambling policies are in fact discriminatory shouldn't base it on the WTO saying it's so. Unfortunately, domestic policies treating domestic and foreign firms the same can still be considered a violation of trade rules because that is exactly what the "national treatment" rule under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) mandates: "Formally identical or formally different treatment shall be considered to be less favourable if it modifies the conditions of competition..."  Essentially, equitable treatment is NOT sufficient to meet the standard of "non-discriminatory" treatment, and any policy perceived to exclude foreign companies from a GATS-committed service sector can be challenged.
 
The WTO GATS was and continues to be a controversial agreement precisely because of its restrictive rules that favor corporations over safeguarding domestic policy space. The Antigua case points to a bigger problem than the $21 million gamble we lost today.
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Comments

Lawrence

Why is the WTO and the politicians trying to ban gambling?

U.S. gambling policies are discriminatory, especially against U.S. citizens.

I love to gamble because it gives me a recreational outlet, especially online slots.
I have found this online slots casino site that accepts players from the USA, http://www.onlinecasinosslotsmachines.com and offers a generous payout.

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