Many readers are probably familiar with the Antigua-U.S. Gambling dispute. I don't want to go through all the details here, but if you need a refresher, here's an overview from an ASIL Insight I did in 2008.
I hadn't heard anything about the case recently and had been wondering what was going. Well, here's an interesting development: An Antiguan company claims that, based on the WTO ruling, it is allowed to violate U.S. intellectual property rights as part of a music and movie download service it has set up! Specifically, it is selling these downloads at very low prices, presumably possible because it is not paying for the rights.
ZookZ operates under the parameters of the 2007 WTO ruling between Antigua and the United States, and is the only website that can legally offer members unlimited digital entertainment.
I read about this first at TechDirt, which had this to say:
There has been some talk of legalized online gambling in recent months. I'm a little skeptical we'll see this happen any time soon, but if it does, this approach seems problematic from a trade perspective:
With every sign pointing to the eventual regulation of Internet gaming in the US, insiders are beginning to wonder what the new geography of the online gambling industry will be. Some observers are predicting that influential land casino operators may use their powerful political lobbies to get a competitive edge in earning licensing for online casinos.
Companies such as MGM Mirage, Harrah's Entertainment, and Las Vegas Sands may cry poverty to Congress, using their largely self-generated economic woes as reason to favor them in any licensing procedure, says gaming expert Anthony Riello. The gaming companies employ thousands of US citizens, and can plea the need to keep them viable as an excuse to provide protectionist cover for them.
On the other hand, Riello notes,"European online gambling sites will not sit still and see the largest market in the world given to competitors while they are blocked out. The current protests of the Remote Gaming Association and the EU would be nothing compared to the outrage felt should the US reopen gaming markets but exclude foreign operators."
I've mentioned before (here and here) that journalist Ed Brayton has been trying to find out what is in the settlement reached by the U.S. and EU in relation to the Gambling case. Brayton now has something to report, although it appears the full details will have to wait a couple weeks:
Since I've just spent the day talking about it, I just realized that I don't think I've ever said here what happened with my FOIA lawsuit, so here's a tease. Just before the election, the Bush administration caved in and gave us the document we wanted. I now have a copy of the WTO settlement that was signed between the US Trade Representative and the European Union. There was just one problem: it was pretty much meaningless gibberish to me.
The document consisted of a table that showed various subsections of the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), all of which are part of what is called a "schedule of commitments" that determines what types of businesses and industries are open to foreign companies and what types are not. Each subsection listed then had a series of numbers and statements.
The only way to discern what it meant was to look at the full GATS text, the current schedule of commitments and map the differences. This is an incredibly long agreement and each subsection was very general. For instance, one of the subsections is titled "storage and warehousing services." Storage and warehousing of what, exactly? More digging is required to figure that out.
It took a trade attorney with Public Citizen nearly 3 months to figure out what the document meant - which sectors previously closed to foreign companies would now be open, what being open to foreign companies means (it's more than you'd think) and what the implications could be for the country. I'm going to be writing this up for publication in the next couple weeks as we go public with it all.
Remember that what this document tells us is how far the government is willing to go to be allowed to continue to make it more difficult for people to spend their own money doing something that is perfectly legal in virtually every state. It tells us what they are willing to sell out in order to pay back the EU for the lost revenue of being shut out of our markets.
So here's a tease: it may have some fairly serious national security implications. Stay tuned.
Another front opens up in the gambling dispute:
A judge in Kentucky seized the Web addresses of more than 140 Internet-gambling sites last week, the latest example of how local governments can affect online businesses with physical operations beyond their jurisdictions.
In the Kentucky case, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate concluded that gambling Web sites were “virtual keys” that provided access to places where one could play online versions of gambling devices such as slot machines and roulette tables, which are illegal in the state.
None of the online businesses—such as GoldenPalace.com, PokerStars.com and UltimateBet.com—are based in Kentucky or rely on technical equipment located in the state. Still, the sites readily accept bets placed by users in Kentucky and process payments from banks based there. That is what triggered Judge Wingate to seize control of the Web addresses.
The court said it will lift its seizure order for online casinos if they implement technology that would block Kentucky residents from accessing their sites.
In the Kentucky case, many of the registrars are based in the U.S. even if the Web sites aren’t, meaning that they have to comply with the court’s order, says Todd Greene, an attorney for Oversee.net, which has a subsidiary called Moniker Online Services that is the registrar for two of the gambling sites.
Here is the court decision.
My favorite source for Gambling case news, the Antigua Sun, has this update:
A new deadline has been put in effect for Antigua and the US to reach an agreement concerning the ongoing online gaming dispute.
The date of 1 Oct., has been set as the time the two countries will have yet another opportunity to reach a resolution to the issue, which has gone on for years.
And in news related to the EU-U.S. part of the dispute:
Two Representatives, Robert Wexler and Steven Cohen have warned the U.S. Justice Department that continuing to investigate European online gambling companies could put the United States in danger of ruining trade relations with the European Union at the World Trade Organization.
The two Representatives sent letters warning that if the investigations do not cease, the U.S. risks much bigger trade sanctions then what has already been approved for Antigua. The issue of the U.S. continuing their investigations could lead to major problems in the future.
"In all likelihood, this issue will escalate and I understand could result in WTO action focused specifically on how the U.S. government enforces its laws. I cannot see how that can be in the interests of this country," said Wexler in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
Public Citizen has filed a lawsuit, on behalf of journalist Ed Brayton, alleging that:
The Bush administration is illegally withholding the details of its offer accepted by the European Union to bind more sectors of the U.S. economy to World Trade Organization (WTO) jurisdiction as part of a settlement relating to a WTO ruling against the U.S. ban on Internet gambling, ...
They ask the court "to find that the USTR is illegally withholding the settlement agreement and to order the agency to provide Brayton a copy of the agreement."
Here's the complaint.
This would be a novel development, although I must say I'm not sure exactly what Mr. Mendel has in mind:
Mark Mendel, Antigua and Barbuda’s attorney in the Internet gambling trade dispute with the United States, has indicated that the decision by a World Trade Organisation (WTO) arbitrator to limit Antigua and Barbuda’s claim against the US to US$21 million per year may not be final.
Speaking during a visit to Antigua last week, Mendel said there is a method through which the December arbitration decision could be reviewed. Though there is not an automatic appeals process for such decisions, Mendel indicated that the decision was thought to be such a bad one that Antigua and Barbuda might be in a position to take the matter before the General Council of the WTO. Antigua and Barbuda sought to claim US$3.4 billion per year in compensation from the US, but the arbitration panel limited that claim to losses related to bets on horse racing – a tiny portion of the gaming industry.
“Going to the General Council of the WTO (is) an action that has never been taken before. As I have mentioned, we seem to be groundbreakers over there in Geneva because a lot of what’s happened had never happened before. But we could do this and I’ve heard from other delegations in Geneva that there’s a lot of unhappiness with the financial end of the December decision. A lot of countries think, as I do, that it was not a very good decision so we could pursue that,” Mendel said.
From the Antigua Sun this past Monday:
The government may be prepared to make a statement on the current status of the Internet gambling dispute with the US as early as today, but early indications are that a proposal for the resolution of the trade dispute received from the US last week has not been met favourably by the government.
The Antigua Sun understands that the American settlement proposal was discussed in Cabinet last Wednesday and was not well received.
Antigua and Barbuda’s attorney in the matter, Mark Mendel, told the SUN that this process had automatically restarted at the WTO once the body was not informed at the end of March that the parties had agreed on a settlement.
And from a WSJ Europe editorial today:
A trans-Atlantic spat over online gambling may help rewrite the rules of the game for Internet commerce across borders. For a change, the Europeans stand on the side of free trade, while America dabbles in regulatory overreach.
The European Union last month launched an internal probe into whether the U.S. Justice Department selectively enforces its antigambling laws against European online firms that offer wagers on sports events. Brussels is making a narrow legal point that Washington discriminates against Europeans by simultaneously permitting U.S. Internet horse betting. That's against World Trade Organization rules, and the case may end up there.
By legalizing and regulating the business, however, Washington could more effectively battle such problems as underage gambling and addiction. It would also avoid unnecessary trade tiffs with its leading commercial partners. And it would exempt cyberspace from overaggressive regulators, in America or anywhere else.
... doesn't look like it is going to happen:
The deadline for the US to put forward a proposal to settle its long running Internet gambling dispute passed yesterday with Antigua and Barbuda reportedly receiving no word from the US.
Up to late yesterday, neither Antigua and Barbuda’s attorney in the matter Mark Mendel nor the local Directorate of Gaming had received any communication on the matter from US officials. Minister of Finance and the Economy Dr. Errol Cort had led a delegation to Barbados for a Caricom meeting on flour and was not available for comment yesterday.
In a process that has seen many delays and missed deadlines, the apparent failure of the US to put forward a settlement proposal by the end of the month was met with an air of resignation in Antigua and Barbuda, with officials continuing to adopt a “wait and see” approach to the negotiations process.
From the Antigua Sun:
A settlement proposal due by the end of the month could put an end to the five-year trade battle over Internet gaming between Antigua and Barbuda and the United States.
According to Mark Mendel, Antigua and Barbuda’s attorney in its World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute, the US is scheduled to put forward a proposal for the settlement of both aspects of the trade dispute by next Monday.
Mendel indicated that Antigua and Barbuda is adopting a wait and see approach to the proposal.
“I am assuming that if they are going to be good to their word, that they will have a proposal. It will be either a proposal or no proposal by the end of the month,” Mendel told the Antigua Sun yesterday
Mendel revealed that despite the controversial US$21 million in sanctions against the US awarded by a WTO Dispute Settlement Body arbitrator last December, the pending proposal is expected to address aspects of the trade dispute which dealt with the United States’ failure to comply with the WTO’s ruling on access for Internet gaming operators.
It will also address the second aspect of the trade conflict, which stems from Antigua and Barbuda’s claim for compensation as the US seeks to withdraw from its commitment to provide market access to the sector under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
“Any settlement that we would do would be comprehensive. It would take in everything."
Back in December, Antigua won the right to suspend concessions and other obligations against the U.S. in the amount of US$21 million in relation to U.S. restrictions on online gambling. So far, though, Antigua has not taken any action to put the suspension into effect. Antigua's lawyer is now hinting that they are about to start:
The government of Antigua is likely to abrogate intellectual property treaties with the U.S. by the end of March and authorize wholesale copying of American movies, music and other "soft targets" if the Bush administration fails to respond to proposals for settling a trade dispute between the two counties, according to the lawyer representing the Caribbean island nation.
Mendel acknowledged his client would like such entities as the MPAA, the recording industry and Microsoft -- orgs that depend on IP protection -- to pressure the Bush administration into negotiating a "preferred" settlement, which would allow Internet gambling between Antigua and the U.S.
But he insisted the threat was neither idle nor empty. "Perhaps the U.S. doesn't think we're serious," Mendel said. "We are."
As reported by a poker web site:
According to the Tico Time in Costa Rica, the United States and Costa Rica have come to a settlement agreement in regards to the United States pulling out of its World Trade Organization agreement involving online gambling.
As compensation for not allowing online gambling companies based in Costa Rica access to U.S. customers, the United States has offered Costa Rica greater access to other service markets, including research and development, storage, technical testing and analysis.
This is similar to the settlements the United States has reached with Canada, Japan and the European Union in the matter.
Costa Rica's settlement took place after the country had filed for arbitration before the World Trade Organization, when it didn't look like the United States and Costa Rica would be able to find agreeable terms.
"The agreement has been satisfactory for the country," said Foreign Trade Minister Marco Ruiz in a written statement.
I believe that leaves only Antigua negotiating with the U.S. on the GATS withdrawal of concessions.
As was widely reported yesterday, the EU is launching an internal investigation on U.S. online gambling laws, to decide whether to bring a WTO complaint:
The European Union threatened to lodge a complaint at the World Trade Organization over U.S. laws that bar gambling Web sites, saying they may break global rules by discriminating against companies based in the bloc.
U.S. authorities have targeted European companies for operating gaming sites, said the European Commission, which today announced an investigation into the U.S. practice. The U.S. hasn't taken action against domestic companies that offer similar services, said the commission, the EU's executive arm.
Here's the EU press release.
But wait, didn't the EU already agree on compensation in this case related to the U.S. withdrawal of concessions? Once a settlement is reached with Antigua and Costa Rica, the countries who haven't yet settled, isn't the case over? Maybe not, as the EU is concerned with prosecution for past gambling activities that occurred prior to withdrawal of the concessions. From an EU "fact sheet" for the case:
Foreign companies are prevented from offering Internet gambling services in the US. The US authorities are investigating EU companies for services that they have offered in the past in the US. EU companies that had been active in the US have left the market, but this has not stopped the US Department of Justice (DOJ) from continuing to act against EU companies. In addition, EU companies argue that the DOJ has not been targeting US companies that were offering equivalent services.
The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) argues that the legal situation in the US as regards Internet gambling was unclear in the past. Despite statements by the DOJ that Internet gambling was not allowed, many local companies were actively supplying this type of service. In addition, the US had in the Uruguay Round undertaken legally binding GATS commitments to allow non-discriminatory access to its gambling market.
The Federal laws targeted by this complaint had already been condemned in a WTO dispute settlement case (WT/DS 285) brought by Antigua and Barbuda against the United States. However, the US did not comply with the relevant rulings, but announced instead its intention to withdraw for the future its GATS commitments on gambling and betting services in accordance with the procedures provided for in Article XXI of the GATS. The US is still negotiating compensatory adjustments in other sectors with affected WTO Members in exchange of this withdrawal. The EU and the US reached a deal on the compensation due to the EU on 17 December 2007.
The RGA argues that applicable US obligations would not disappear even after the completion of the current process of withdrawal of the United States' GATS gambling commitments. The reason for this is that the withdrawal would not have retroactive effects, that is, would only remove US obligations for the future, but not in respect of past events. In this particular case, the DOJ is only targeting past events (the Internet gambling offered by EU companies in the past) when US GATS commitments were in place. (emphasis added)
In related news on the gambling dispute, blogger Ed Brayton continues his quest to find out what's in the U.S. gambling settlements, with the EU and others.
The Gambling dispute has been great for opportunities to raise WTO law in domestic law. Here's another example, from the Imega vs. Gonzalez decision, issued this past week by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, which involved a complaint against the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006:
C. WTO Claims (Counts IV, V)
The plaintiff alleges that UIGEA is void because it is ultra vires of, and otherwise inconsistent with, the foreign trade obligations of the United States. But prudential standing considerations bar judicial review here. Although some treaty obligations may create a private cause of action, see Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 126 S.Ct. 2669, 2680 (2006) (assuming, but not deciding, truth of proposition), that is not the case as to the Uruguay Round Agreements at issue here. Indeed, the statute pertaining to the Uruguay Round Agreements precludes private actions: only the United States "may challenge ... [an] action or inaction by [a] department, agency, or other instrumentality of the United States ... on the ground that such action or inaction is inconsistent with [the Uruguay Round Agreements.]" 19 U.S.C. § 3512(c)(1)(B). The economic rights of private individuals are thus not within the "zone of interests intended to be protected by" the Uruguay Round Agreements. Oxford Assoc., 271 F.3d at 146. The plaintiff, as it has no cause of action under the WTO, cannot satisfy prudential standing as to its WTO claims.
Even if the Court were to consider the merits of the WTO claims, UIGEA "which was enacted in 2006" would trump any obligations arising under the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements. See 19 U.S.C. § 3512(a)(1) ("[n]o provision of any of the Uruguay Round Agreements ... that is inconsistent with any law of the United States shall have effect"); see, e.g., Tag v. Rogers, 267 F.2d 664, 667 (D.C. Cir. 1959) ("has long been established that treaties and statutes are on the same level and, accordingly, that the latest action expresses the controlling law"). Also, WTO decisions are "not binding on the United States, much less this court." Corus Staal BV v. Dep't of Commerce, 395 F.3d 1343, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (quotes and cite omitted). The plaintiff's WTO claims would thus fail as a matter of law.
This decision doesn't seem to break any new ground, but rather just repeats various reasons why the court doesn't want to accept a defense based on WTO obligations. Also, since this claim dealt with the UIEGA, it was more difficult to raise WTO obligations then some other cases, as the UIEGA was not part of the WTO claim.
Two things worth mentioning on the internet gambling issue.
First, here's a Congressional proposal to legalize, regulate and tax internet gambling:
US Congressman Jim McDermott has introduced web gambling legislation that would collect billions of dollars in new revenues.
A recent analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates the revenues at between $8.7bn and $42.8bn over 10 years.
The Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act 2008 would ensure that taxes are collected on regulated internet gambling activities, strengthening the provisions of an earlier version of the bill introduced last year.
When the Democrats took control of the Senate, Harry Reid, senator from Nevada, became majority leader. So, land-based casinos, which want a study and law allowing them to operate internet casinos, can get those, if the President is a Democrat. If John McCain wins, Republicans will take over the Senate, so nothing will change. Insiders know that if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, Democrats will lose the Senate, even if she wins the presidency. There will then be four years of deadlock.
Assuming Barack Obama is nominated and wins, the Democrats will keep control of Congress and there will be a change in the federal law. It might come as early as 2009. More likely, it won't be until 2010, or even later. For political cover, there could be an objective, scientific study done first, that proves that internet gambling can be kept safe from hackers, protecting the "vulnerables" (children and compulsive gamblers), and that states that don't want to allow can be blocked.
Is that right that Obama would be most likely to legalize internet gambling? I can see that there is an argument that a Clinton Presidency would mean a Republican Congress, as Professor Rose argues, but that seems far from definite. I looked for explicit statements by the candidates on internet gambling, but couldn't find anything.
ADDED: I found one thing in the Las Vegas Sun, setting out the candidates' views on internet gambling:
Clinton: Supports the industry’s position: to study Internet gambling to see whether it can be fairly regulated so that individuals can safely participate in it and American businesses can compete in the international market.
Obama: Worries that the Internet is “a Wild West of illegal activity”; supports a study of Internet gambling and supports regulation to address the worst abuses.
I had been hoping that the GATS Article XXI arbitration in the Gambling dispute would be as transparent as regular WTO disputes. I'm not sure that will be the case, though, as the arbitration requests have not yet been made public on the WTO's web site (as far as I can tell, anyway). So, the best I can do is follow the reports in the Antigua Sun:
[Antigua's attorney Mark] Mendel told the SUN that the new arbitration process is likely to take a month or two to get going and several additional months of briefings and hearings before a decision is reached.
Writer Ed Brayton tried to find out, to no avail:
I immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the agreement and, predictably, the USTR is denying that request. And just in case you thought this administration had hit rock bottom on making dishonest and mendacious arguments to maintain the secrecy of their actions in contravention of Federal law, let me disabuse you of that notion by reprinting the letter I received today:
Dear Mr. Brayton:
This is USTR's response to your request for "a copy of the full text of the settlement between the USTR and the European Union regarding America's online gambling laws", under the Freedom of Information Act.
Please be advised that the document you seek is being withheld in full pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1), which pertains to information that is properly classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958.
Inasmuch as this constitutes a complete grant of your request, I am closing your file in this office. In the event you are dissatisfied with USTR's determination, you may appeal such a denial, within thirty (30) days, in writing...
Yes, they are actually claiming that this document, which has nothing even remotely do to with anything that could conceivably, in Dick Cheney's wildest imagination, have anything to do with national security, has been properly classified. Americans, according to this administration, have no right to know how many billions of our tax dollars they've spent with no legislative authorization whatsoever in order to buy the cooperation of other nations and allow them to continue to violate the rights of American adults by preventing them from gambling in the privacy of their own home.
Yes, I will be filing an appeal immediately, and I will be filing a lawsuit if that appeal fails to restore some sanity to the situation. They've got me pissed off now.
I've sometimes wondered what would happen if I filed a FOIA request to get information on certain trade issues. My guess was that I wouldn't be very successful, so I never bothered.
A law firm representing some gambling interests thinks it might be:
protections contained in the US IIAs, comprising 40 Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and 11 Free Trade Agreements (FTA’s), may be relied upon by foreign investors seeking to establish a gaming business in the US under the “commercial presence” route.
in the event the US denies an investor permission to establish a gaming business, this may well amount to a breach of its treaty obligations. The putative investor could then choose to enforce its rights by recourse to the dispute resolution mechanism contained in the applicable IIA.
See pages 8-9 of the document.
(HT to Investment Treaty News)
A large and sophisticated literature examines the normative desirability of granting "direct effect" to WTO law in domestic courts. However, much of this scholarship focuses on civil litigation. A related, but largely unexplored, question relates to the impact, if any, of WTO law on criminal prosecutions. In particular, can individuals be criminally prosecuted for violation of domestic laws found to be WTO-inconsistent?
A U.S. district court recently addressed this issue. The case involved a criminal prosecution for, inter alia, violations of the Wire Act. The defendants argued that the Wire Act charges should be dismissed "because (1) the Charming Betsy canon of construction and the principle of international comity dictate that the Court interpret the Wire Act . . . so as not to violate [WTO] violations; and (2) the WTO's Appellate Body decision in the Antigua gambling case is self-executing and therefore binding upon this Court."
In U.S. v. Lombardo, the federal district court for the District of Utah had little difficulty dismissing these arguments. First, the court held that the Charming Betsy argument was unavailing because this canon of construction comes into play only when federal statutes are ambiguous. However, the court held that the unambiguous terms of the Wire Act clearly apply to online gambling. The court then held that defendants could not rely upon the AB report in the Gambling dispute because U.S. courtrs are not bound by AB reports, and because the implementing legislation expressly forecloses "any cause of action or defense under any of the Uruguay Round Agreements" to parties other than the federal government.
As Simon has noted, a similar motion to dismiss on the basis of the Gambling report is pending in the criminal prosecution of Gary Kaplan and Betonsports in the Eastern District of Missouri. The Lombardo decision is broadly consistent with other federal court decisions refusing to give effect to panel or AB reports in civil litigation. See, e.g., Corus Staal v. U.S.
Are others aware of any other jurisdictions that have considered the "direct effect" question in the criminal context? Are there legal or policy reasons to have a different rule on "direct effect" when it comes to criminal prosecutions?
P.S. Thanks to Simon Lester for tracking down a copy of the Lombardo decision, which can be accessed here.
Yes, that's right, I said Phyllis Schlafly. She has read a bit and even quotes from the Gambling decision and also Article XVI:4 of the WTO Agreement. Her main point seems to be that it's outrageous for the WTO to have authorized Antigua to "pirate" U.S. intellectual property. I'm not sure she's aware the rules explicitly provide for this. Thus, it's not clear if she's upset by the Arbitrator's decision or the rules themselves.
There was also this:
How is a foreign tribunal in Geneva able to put the United States in such a box? It's because the internationalist free-trade lobby cooked up a sleazy deal to force the World Trade Organization on Americans in 1994 during the week after Thanksgiving, when Americans were preoccupied with Christmas shopping and festivities.
Americans sure are easily distracted!
Her more general point about the WTO is the following:
The World Trade Organization is a direct attack on U.S. sovereignty because it claims it can force any nation to change its laws to comply with World Trade Organization rulings. Article XVI, paragraph 4, states: "Each Member shall ensure the conformity of its laws, regulations, and administrative procedures with its obligations." The World Trade Organization has the final say about whether U.S. laws meet World Trade Organization requirements.
In this presidential season, the World Trade Organization should make easy target practice for any candidate to speak up and defend U.S. sovereignty against globalists who, under the mantra of "free trade," willingly allow the World Trade Organization to say which laws the U.S. may or may not adopt.
While the majority of trade skeptics are on the left, this is a good illustration of trade skepticism from the right.
I can't figure out what her position on "free trade" is, though. She says: "The World Trade Organization is not 'free trade' at all, but is a supra-national body in Geneva that sets, manages and enforces World Trade Organization-made rules to govern global trade." But would she support "free trade" outside the context of trade agreements, like Ron Paul would? I don't see an answer in this piece.
From the Award:
6.1 For the reasons set out above, the Arbitrator determines that the annual level of nullification or impairment of benefits accuing to Antigua in this case is US$21 million and that Antigua has followed the principles and procedures of Article 22.3 of the DSU in determining that it is not practicable or effective to suspend concessions or other obligations under the GATS and that the circumstances were serious enough. Accordingly, the Arbitrator determines that Antigua may request authorization from the DSB, to suspend the obligations under the TRIPS Agreement mentioned in paragraph 5.6 above, at a level not exceeding US$21 million annually.
The U.S. must be pretty happy with that amount. I haven't looked through the reasoning yet, but I did notice there was a separate opinion on one of the interpretive issues.
-- From USTR's press release:
In the arbitration, Antigua claimed that its level of impairment of WTO benefits resulting from U.S. noncompliance amounted to $3.4 billion per year – a figure more than three times the size of Antigua’s entire economy. During the arbitration, the United States explained to the Arbitrator that Antigua's claim was patently excessive. The United States is pleased that the figure arrived at by the Arbitrator is over 100 times lower than Antigua’s claim.
-- More from an AP story.
-- From Reuters.
-- What Antigua's legal team thought of the decision:
Mark Mendel, the lawyer who has been spearheading this case for the Antiguan government since it began back in 2003 observed “I am pleased that the panel approved our ability to cross-retaliate by suspension of intellectual property rights of United States business interests. That has only been done once before and is, I believe, a very potent weapon.”
Mr Mendel expressed less satisfaction with the amount of damages assessed. “I find it astonishing that two of the three panelists would in essence grant the United States the benefit of a hypothetical method of compliance most favorable to the American side in assessing Antigua’s level of trade impairment. What appears to have been done here is assuming a form of compliance that has not happened and probably will not happen without giving Antigua the ability to contest the method under the WTO’s normal procedures,” he added. Unlike other WTO rulings, awards of arbitrators are not subject to review by the Appellate Body of the WTO.
While questioning the low number, Mr Mendel remains positive about the dispute going forward. “US $21 million a year in intellectual property rights suspension going forward indefinitely is not such a bad asset to have. I hope that the United States government will now see the wisdom in reaching some accommodation with Antigua over this dispute and look forward to seeing efforts in this regard.”
-- From Sallie James at Cato.
-- From the NY Times, with a quote from Brendan McGivern:
Still, implementation will prove difficult, the lawyers say.
“Even if Antigua goes ahead with an act of piracy or the refusal to allow the registration of a trademark, the question still remains of how much that act is worth,” said Brendan McGivern, a trade lawyer with White & Case in Geneva. “The Antiguans could say that’s worth $50,000, and then the U.S. might say that’s worth $5 million — and I can tell you that the U.S. is going to dog them on every step of the way.”
No doubt he's right about that.
Here's my question. How much relevance does the amount of nullification or impairment decided in this arbitration decision have for any GATS Article XXI arbitration that occurs on the matter? The terms of reference for such arbitrations say:
13. The arbitration body shall have the following terms of reference unless the parties to the arbitration agree otherwise within ten days from the request for arbitration:
"To examine the compensatory adjustments offered by (name of modifying Member) or requested by (affected Member requesting the arbitration) and to find a resulting balance of rights and obligations which maintains a general level of mutually advantageous commitments not less favourable to trade than that provided for in Schedules of specific commitments prior to the negotiations. In such examination, the Arbitration body shall take into account any agreement reached, in negotiations under paragraph 4. above, between the modifying Member and any affected Member".
Seems like the $21 million figure could play some role there.
-- And here is the Antiguan legal team's press release.
-- Various quotes on the decision collected in the National Journal.
-- My favorite headline of the day: "WTO OKs Antigua as pirate of Caribbean"
-- More from Antigua's lawyer Mark Mendel.
European online gaming firms are filing a formal complaint against the United States for discrimination after their controversial exit from the US market.
The companies say that the US Department of Justice has violated international trade law by kicking them out of the market and taking legal action while allowing domestic online gaming operators to continue trading.
The group has asked the EU to investigate the situation, arguing that although the US has repeatedly stated that all forms of online gambling are illegal, it has enforced this view only with non-US businesses.
More details at Reason Magazine's blog.
ADDED: It is being suggested that the Arbitrator's Article 22.6 decision is coming out tomorrow. I'll believe it when I see it.
No doubt Microsoft is concerned about the prospect of Antigua getting authorization to sell pirated copies of its products, but we're not quite there yet. However, it is already feeling some pain from the U.S. online gambling ban:
Internet giants Google, Microsoft and Yahoo agreed to pay a total of $31.5 million to settle with the United States Attorney's office in St. Louis for taking ads from internet gambling websites.
"This is a very profitable business that had a lot of money to spend on marketing," stated U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway. "I do think it will have a major impact. Obviously these are three of the largest online organizations in the world."
As part of the agreement, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo agreed to stop accepting ads for sports wagering and other online gambling. The three internet giants already stopped taking such ads approximately 4 years ago. The settlement reached today was finalized after a year and a half of negotiations between the tech companies and federal prosecutors.
Not surprisingly, given that the status quo is very good for them, they are quite happy with it:
“The U.S. withdrawal of its WTO commitments in gambling services was the only approach that could meet U.S. treaty obligations, remove the gambling issue from the WTO agenda and restore stability to the domestic regulatory environment,” said Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. “The NTRA has long advocated the withdrawal of U.S. gaming commitments. This agreement is a major step toward the conclusion of the WTO dispute involving the U.S. regulation of remote gambling services.”
I suppose it is a major step, but there are some big hurdles left.
In the Gambling compensation negotiations, the U.S. and EU have apparently reached a deal:
The United States agreed on Monday to widen access to some of its services in compensation to the European Union for preventing betting businesses from offering on-line gambling in the US, the EU said here.
The compensatory measures will increase opportunities for EU companies in the fields of postal and courier services, storaging and warehousing, and in research and development.
More from the BBC:
The concessions, which relate to mail and storage services among others, will affect how Germany's DHL competes with US-based firms Fedex and UPS.
The proposed deal also includes new US market opportunities for European firms offering testing and analysis services, as well as in research and development.
As to the Article 22.6 arbitration, not surprisingly the ruling has been delayed.
ADDED: Here's a Bloomberg article from today on the dispute, with quotes from a few prominent trade lawyers.
MORE: Apparently the settlement was not just with the EU, but also Japan and Canada:
A spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative's office (USTR) confirmed an earlier report from a European official, and noted that Japan and Canada were also included in the agreement settling the World Trade Organization complaint.
"The agreement involves commitments to maintain our liberalized markets for warehousing services, technical testing services, research and development services and postal services relating to outbound international letters," said Gretchen Hamel, the USTR spokeswoman, in a statement.
"These commitments meet our WTO obligation ... to make a compensatory adjustment in our WTO services commitments."
Hamel said the deal allows for a 45-day period "in which the remaining claimants have a right to request arbitration. We will continue to discuss this matter with the other claimants to explain how our proposal is consistent with our WTO obligations."
That leaves Australia, Costa Rica, India, Macau (although this report says Australia settled, too), and, of course, Antigua, still to reach a deal.
AND: Global Trade Watch points out that Congress must OK all of this.
They also state: "After the gambling case showed how the WTO places major constraints on non-trade domestic policy space, ..." I'm not sure I agree with that. The key constraint in this case was not to discriminate against foreigners. That's not much of a constraint on domestic policy space, in my view.
SO WHAT do FedEx and UPS think of being the subject of the compensation:
A FedEx spokeswoman said it was unclear what the deal would mean to the Memphis-based courier. "We're looking into this now," said spokeswoman Sandra Munos. A call to Atlanta-based UPS was not immediately returned.
AND HOW much was the compensation worth? No one's talking:
In any case, the overall trade valuation of the package will fall far short of the US$100 billion that European online gaming sites had claimed the United States owed. EU officials could not immediately say how much the deal was worth.
"This compensation cannot be quantified up to the euro," the EU mission to the WTO said in an e-mailed statement. "Nonetheless, it is clear that new trade opportunities are created for EU service suppliers in important sectors in the U.S."
GLOBAL TRADE WATCH's Eyes on Trade blog is not happy about it:
What this could mean in practice is that there would be additional pressures to privatize and deregulate not only our postal service, but also our safety policy around dangerous LNG terminals. Oh, yeah, and this is just for the right to maintain a gambling policy that corporations don't like - a policy that treats foreign and domestic gambling firms THE SAME.
The pressure to privatize and deregulate the postal service, etc. sounds unlikely, but I don't know for sure what they have in mind; I do think they have their facts wrong about the "treating foreign and domestic gambling firms the same", though.
A BIT more from Reuters.
AND HERE is USTR's press release on the deal.
I feel like I am repeating myself here, but this is what is being reported:
"We feel pretty confident about our case, to be honest. We really feel like we have the upper hand here," Mark Mendel, a private attorney representing Antigua, told Reuters ahead of an expected ruling by a WTO arbitration panel on Friday.
I'm not sure if this means the confidential version given to the parties or the version circulated to the public. I would guess the former.
The Antigua legal team's gambling dispute web site has a few recently added documents related to the Article 22.6 arbitration. I don't have time to go through them right now -- I'm still trying to sort through the recent AB reports -- to see if there's anything noteworthy in there, but I thought I would point them out to others who may be interested:
|Antigua's Methodology Paper||31 August 2007|
|Antigua's Exhibits to its Methodology Paper||31 August 2007|
|Antigua's Answers to the Article 22.6 Arbitration Panel's Questions||2 November 2007|
|United States' Answers to the Article 22.6 Arbitration Panel's Questions||2 November 2007|
|Figures Attached to United States Answers||2 November 2007|
|Antigua's Comments to the United States's Answers||13 November 2007|
|United States' Comments to Antigua's Answers||13 November 2007|
Even as Governor Deval Patrick seeks to license three resort casinos in Massachusetts, he hopes to clamp down on the explosion in Internet gambling by making it illegal for state residents to place a bet on line. He has proposed jail terms of up to two years and $25,000 fines for violators.
Antigua will not be happy with either of these approaches.
We may see another WTO complaint by Antigua if this comes to pass:
... while a seemingly endless debate rages on in Congress over whether to legalize Internet gambling nationwide, some gaming interests are pursuing a different tack by appealing to Nevada regulators with the power to allow and oversee online betting for Nevada residents within the state's borders.