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Utah Legislators Call USTR's Bluff

Utah state legislators are fed up and sending a signal to the federal gGamblingovernment that states’ rights need to be respected in international trade negotiations.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that this November, the Utah International Trade Commission drafted a resolution, Utah Joint House Resolution 1 "in hopes of persuading federal officials to favor domestic interests over international priorities." The resolution calls for “gambling to remain in the realm of states’ rights." Utah has a zero tolerance policy on gambling.                   

As you might remember, in 2005 Antigua challenged the United States over its restrictions on internet gambling at the WTO and won. To avoid changing gambling laws, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) claimed that they had unknowingly committed gambling services to the WTO General Agreement on Services (GATS) under “other recreational services” and at the urging of 29 attorney generals, including Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, USTR took the bold step of withdrawing gambling from the WTO's GATS.

Since this withdrawal, the United States has been involved in endless negotiations (WTO rules require a country to satisfactorily compensate trading partners when withdrawing a commitment).

Not only are Utah legislators out to make sure gambling laws are not compromised in ongoing negotiations, they also states to have a voice in the U.S. trade negotiation and approval process to make sure that other important state domestic regulations don’t get scrapped at the negotiation table.

Rep Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, the chief sponsor of the resolution, tells the Salt Lake Tribune:

Many see gambling as a moral issue. But I'm looking at it as a states' rights issue.…Talks for the next round [World Trade Organization negotiations in 2009] are in limbo. It's very important that states give input and get involved before agreements get signed by 153 countries.

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